Gaithersburg man goes to Annapolis to fight for homeowners -- Gazette.Net







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When Robert Nelson learned that the assessed value of his home on Goshen School Road went up 16 percent since 2009, but that the value of all other homes on his street had decreased over the last few years, he was astounded.

The Gaithersburg man said he hasn’t made updates to his 2004 custom-built home since adding a deck and sun porch in 2006.

He told delegates in the Maryland State House Ways and Means committee on Feb. 28 that his situation is a good example of why HB789, proposed by Delegate Susan K. McComas (R-Dist. 35B) of Bel Air, should pass.

Greater visibility to property tax assessment records is desperately needed, Nelson said.

In HB789, McComas writes that Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation should be required to post detailed worksheets and cards associated with each assessment on its website. Worksheets, which are now only available after someone initiates an appeal on a property, give detailed property characteristics and information about updates to homes. Land owners currently request worksheets of neighboring properties in order to research comparables during the appeal process.

Having these worksheets prior to appealing could help homeowners make more educated decisions of whether or not to appeal, according to Roy Whiteley, president of Marylanders For Fair Property Taxation, who testified before the committee.

Nelson has begun to appeal the assessment of his home with the state department.

When he found out about HB789, he realized that he is not alone.

Last year, 5,868 appeals and petitions regarding commercial or home assessments were submitted by county residents to the state department; statewide, 50,613 were submitted, Young said.

Of those who appeal, about one in four are successful in changing the assessed value, he said.

But the worksheets have been ruled by the legislator in 1969 and 1980 as private, and putting the information out there for the general public would be a fundamental policy change, according to Robert Young, the director of the Department of Assessments and Taxation, who testified against the bill.

Also, developers from the Center for Applied Information Technology at Towson University have estimated that building an online system that shows this information for Maryland’s 2.1 million homeowners would cost about $200,000, Young said.

When only about 3,000 owners requested worksheets this year, Young asked the delegates whether the cost and privacy change is justified.

McComas said that she hopes the bill gets legs, because someone needs to look into the system.

“We really need to take the cover off this black box, and see how it is being done,” she said.