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Another year of declining assessments in county

December 28, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

News about plummeting assessments was mailed Tuesday to the owners of about 20,000 properties in and around Hagerstown.

The combined value of those properties dropped 18.3 percent, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation — the second straight year of a decline of that magnitude.

That includes a 24 percent drop for about 18,200 residential properties — from $3.4 billion in total assessed value to $2.6 billion.

The value of about 1,800 commercial properties declined 2.2 percent.

To make up for less tax revenue because of declining property assessments, local governments might be forced to raise tax rates.

Local taxes are the larger burden on property owners.

Washington County's tax rate is 94.8 cents per $100 of assessed value for properties outside of local municipalities. The state's property tax rate is 11.2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The state sets new property values on a three-year schedule, covering roughly one-third of the county per year.

The assessment notices mailed Tuesday are for residential properties in the city of Hagerstown and the surrounding areas of Cedar Lawn, Halfway and Maugansville, said Adam Lewis, the supervisor of the Department of Assessments and Taxation's local office.

Only commercial properties in the city were part of the new round of assessments. Those in the surrounding areas will be included next year, Lewis said.

Overall in Maryland, assessment values are down 17.9 percent, according to the department. Residential values declined 21.9 percent — the largest decline in the department's history — and commercial values were down 0.8 percent.

All 23 counties and Baltimore City saw declines in the newest round of assessments. The biggest drop was for residential values in Prince George's County, which fell 35 percent.

After a boom period earlier in the decade, assessment values are plummeting.

A portion of Washington County's property values rose 21.4 percent in 2004. The same part of the county rose 64.7 percent in 2007.

But the collective value of properties in that area dropped 18.4 percent in 2010, in what was considered an historic drop.

New property values go into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

"We haven't seen home values starting to recover," Lewis said.

He reminded property owners to apply for a Homestead Tax Credit, which limits assessment increases for tax purposes. People who live on property they own are eligible.

Under state law, the taxable value of property can go up a maximum of 10 percent in one year.

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Municipalities may set lower caps. Washington County's is 5 percent.


Applying for homestead credit

Under state law, annual increases in Marylanders' taxable property value are capped.

The limit is 10 percent statewide. Washington County's cap, for figuring local property taxes, is 5 percent.

To receive the credit, property owners must file a one-time Homestead Tax Credit Eligibility Application.

People who live on property they own are eligible.

Applications may be filed at https://sdathtc.resiusa.org/homestead.

The Washington County office of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation can be reached at 301-791-3050.

The office will be open Wednesday, but closed Thursday as part of state budget cuts and Friday because of the holiday.

Adam Lewis, the supervisor of the Department of Assessments and Taxation's local office, said a state law requires property owners to apply for a Homestead Tax Credit by Jan. 1, 2012, to be eligible.

Owners who still need to apply should receive a form with their assessment notices, he said.

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