More Marylanders appealed their property tax assessments this year compared to last, but appeals were down in three of the larger counties and Baltimore.
Sharply higher assessments spawned tax protests in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties last year and played a major role in several election upsets.
But appeals of assessments in Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore were down this year, even as the total number of assessment appeals jumped to 60,000. State officials and tax protest leaders gave several reasons for the changes.
Last year, 55,000 appeals were filed statewide, almost twice the 30,000 filed the year before. Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties accounted for 30,000 of last year's appeals.
Property Taxpayers United, a protest group in Baltimore County, had urged homeowners this month to "jam the system" with appeals. However, the number fell there from 15,900 last year to 14,532 this year.
The drop in Montgomery was more dramatic, dipping from 10,159 last year to 6,242 this year.
Taxpayers whose homes were reassessed in December had until a week ago to file their appeals. Those who do attend hearings to argue why they feel their homes were valued too high by the state.
John O'Neill, a leader in the Baltimore County tax protest, attributed the drop in appeals to a 4 percent property tax cap that the County Council passed last year.
Also, the eastern county was re-assessed this year. Except for waterfront property in Dundalk and Essex, the increases in assessments weren't as dramatic as were seen in the north and central county last year, O'Neill said.
David E. Boyd, the founder of Property Taxpayers United, agreed that the 4 percent cap probably had some impact, but he added, "We got the word out faster last year."
In counties with large amounts of waterfront property, the number of appeals increased tremendously, said Lloyd Jones, director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation.
The number of appeals in Arundel more than doubled, from 4,052 last year to 8,300 this year. Appeals also increased in Calvert County and some Eastern Shore counties, such as Worcester.
"Everyone should appeal if they think their value is wrong," Jones said. "But the great majority of these appeals are tax protests. Their values are not off.
"It's up to the county government to control . . . spending," Jones said. "I think it came out real well in Montgomery County. That's a very sophisticated county, and I think they understand what drives their tax bill."
Jones suggested homeowners would do better to lobby their governments to lower tax rates.
Baltimore County Councilman Donald Mason, D-7th, said he would try to persuade the council to lower the current property tax rate of $2.895 per $100 of assessed value to the constant yield rate.
The constant yield is the property tax rate at which the county would collect the same amount of property tax as last year, with the new higher assessments factored in.
That rate is $2.77 per $100 of assessed value, Mason said. That would translate to a 12 1/2 -cent reduction, or $16 million.
Boyd said his group's main battle remains with assessments that are inconsistent and riddled with mistakes. He also hopes the new council, which he said his group helped elect, will lower the property tax rate.
Property assessment appeals
Jurisdiction 1990 1991 Change
Anne Arundel 4,052 8,300 +105%
Baltimore 9,635 7,100 -26%
Baltimore Co. 15,900 14,532 -9%
Carroll 1,107 1,402 +27%
Harford 1,753 1,918 +9%
Howard 1,217 1,728 +42%
Prince George's 3,747 3,082 -18%
Montgomery 10,159 6,242 -39%
Statewide 55,938 60,281 +8%