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Residential down, commercial up in newest property assessments

Newly reassessed region is the eastern and northern parts of Washington County

December 28, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Residential property values in one-third of Washington County have dropped an average of 10.5 percent in three years, new state assessments show.

Three years ago, the average decrease in the same territory was more than twice as large — 22 percent.

The newly reassessed region is the eastern and northern parts of the county, including Smithsburg, Funkstown and Boonsboro.

There are about 20,500 residential accounts in that region, according to the Washington County office of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Commercial properties in the same region increased in value an average of 8.5 percent.

Of the 1,250 commercial accounts in the region, about 1,000 are taxable, according to a summary provided by Adam W. Lewis, the supervisor of assessments for Washington County.

The combined assessment decline in that part of the county for residential and commercial properties was 6.9 percent, putting Washington County near the middle of the pack among Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

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Only two counties — Howard and Montgomery — had an overall increase in assessments in the latest round of valuations. Montgomery was the only one with a gain in residential property assessments.

Maryland updates property assessments every three years; one-third of the properties are done each year.

Statewide, property values in the latest reassessment were down, on average, 6.9 percent for residential and up 11.4 percent for commercial.

The new values were mailed to property owners on Friday and go into effect on Jan. 1.

The Washington County summary says about 83 percent of the residential properties in the newly reassessed region dropped in value.

“New construction has picked up slightly since the last reassessment period, especially in existing subdivisions like Westfields,” along Sharpsburg Pike, the summary says. “Land sales of vacant lots, and large parcels with higher density zoning for development, continue to be infrequent.”

The summary also says: “Commercial New Construction remains stable, and the amount of commercial arms length property transfers remains somewhat steady given our current conditions ... The relocation of the recently built hospital has also (contributed) to this increase, as that region experienced the largest increase in commercial base value due to its activity.”

Maryland’s Homestead Act protects homeowners from facing large property tax increases from higher property assessments.

State law says the taxable value of a property can go up a maximum of 10 percent in one year.

Counties may set lower caps. Washington County’s is 5 percent.

Homeowners who haven’t been granted the credit so far have until Dec. 31 to apply.

Reassessments that went into effect Jan. 1, 2012, had a similar disparity as the group that’s about to go into effect. On average, residential property values dropped 16.7 percent, while commercial values rose 6.8 percent.

That covered the region that mainly runs along the Potomac River, from Hancock east and south to Clear Spring, Williamsport, Keedysville, Sharpsburg and Rohrersville.

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