Assessments Draw More Challenges

February 01, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

More than twice as many Anne Arundel homeowners appealed their property tax assessments this year as in 1990, a reflection of region-widetax protests and escalating waterfront property values.

Some 8,300 residents in South County and the Annapolis Neck peninsula filed appeals, compared with 4,052 appeals from the northern and western sections of the county last year. That is the second-highest number of appeals since the county started its triennial assessment process in 1979, said Kenneth Tschantre, Arundel's supervisor of assessments.

"What we're seeing is a combination of things," Tschantre said. "We're getting a backlash from taxpayer's organizations in Baltimore County," where tax protest groups have urged homeowners to "jam the system" with appeals. Anne Arundel's tax protest leader, Robert Schaeffer, also told residents to show their disgust by filing an appeal by the Jan. 24 deadline, regardless of the grounds.

Perhaps more important than general anti-tax sentiment was the fact that the 52,000 properties assessed last year included much waterfront property, which has drastically increased in value since the last assessment in 1987.

"It's not unusual to see properties we assessed at $150,000 to $250,000 three years ago all of a sudden sell for $450,000 to $500,000," Tschantre said.

State assessors base their findings on market sales information and an exterior appraisal, he said. "We don't make the numbers up. What's baffling people now and caused this uproar is that people are . . . hearing that the market is down. They can't understand, if houses aren't selling, how come some guy is raising their value."

Assessors used sales information from 1988 and 1989 -- years when the housing market was active -- for the most recent appraisals, Tschantre said.

Ronald F. Council, a resident of Wardour, an Annapolis community along the Severn River, said he appealed his assessment because he believes it far exceeds the actual property value, especially since the market has softened. Most one-acre waterfront lots in Wardour now are assessed at over $1 million, he said -- three times the 1987 assessment.

Farther south, other waterfront homeowners said they believe their assessments are fair.

"I think a lot of people were under-assessed for so long that, when they brought it up to an area that was reasonable, it seemed outrageous," said William Bucklin of Rosehaven, who works as a real estate specialist for PrinceGeorge's County. Bucklin's split-foyer home, which sits on one-sixthof an acre one block from the Chesapeake Bay, was assessed at $128,000, up from the high $90,000s three years ago.

Annapolis and SouthCounty residents say they hear many people complaining about their assessments. "They're all squawking about it," said John S. Cannon Sr.of Holland Point.

All appellants first will have their case heardby the local assessment supervisor; in this case, Tschantre. "Don't come in ready to shoot the guy," Tschantre said. "Come in and talk tous so we can see why the value is not there."

The informal meeting is the homeowner's opportunity to provide information assessors might not know, such as some defect in the interior of the house, he said.

About 25 to 30 percent of appellants have their assessments reduced after the supervisor's hearing. Those who do not may take their cases to the state Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board, an independent, three-member panel appointed by the governor, and, finally, to the Maryland Tax Court in Baltimore.

Tschantre said he hopes to hear all appeals by mid-May so cases can be resolved before tax bills are sent in July.

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