When William Donald Schaefer was mayor of Baltimore, he and fellow local officials passed along to the state the disagreeable chore of assessing property for taxation purposes. Now, as governor, he is contemplating giving it back.
The Department of Assessments and Taxation is in some ways a misnomer, in that the job of appraising the value of a property is easily confused with the tax rate. The department's new secretary, Lloyd Jones, makes this point by taking pains to refer to the department's staff as appraisers, not assessors.
Determining the tax rate is an inherently political task, and the responsibility rightfully rests with elected local officials. Appraising the value of property, however, should be an objective process, not one tainted by local politics. That's one important reason the appraisal function was relegated to the state in the first place -- and why it should stay there.