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County tax bills likely to increase

December 30, 2006|by TARA REILLY

The latest round of property assessments indicate next summer's tax bills are likely to rise again, but Washington County residents might get some relief with a newly lowered cap that limits how much assessments can go up.

Residential property values in the section of Washington County that was reassessed went up 64.7 percent over the last three years, which means assessments will rise about 21.6 percent each of the next three years, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Many residential bills, however, won't reflect that much of an increase. The County Commissioners earlier this year lowered the cap on how much residential assessments can rise for tax purposes from 10 percent a year to 5 percent a year.

So, even though the average annual assessment increase is 21.6 percent, taxable assessments will rise no more than 5 percent a year over the next three years, or a total of 15 percent.

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Properties are reassessed by the state every three years. The cap, called the Homestead Tax Credit, applies to homeowner-occupied properties.

Approximately 20,000 residential properties were assessed this time around, said C. John Sullivan Jr., director of the Department of Assessments and Taxation.

The area recently reassessed runs from northeastern Washington County to the Boonsboro area, and includes the Smithsburg and Funkstown areas.

About 1,200 commercial properties also were reassessed, but they are not eligible for the assessment cap.

Sullivan said county residents were "extremely fortunate" to have the lower cap.

The commissioners lowered the cap at the urging of the local delegation.

Statewide, property values in the areas recently assessed increased an average of 56.1 percent over the last three years, according to the Department of Assessments and Taxation.

The new assessments are based on 132,500 sales over the last three years, Sullivan said.

Sixteen of the 24 jurisdictions in the state had lower assessments than Washington County. St. Mary's County had the highest average annual assessment of 28.1 percent, and Garrett County had the lowest at 12.8 percent, according to the Department of Assessments and Taxation.

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