Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 04, 2005

Caps not cause of discrepancies in property tax

Maryland's property tax system is a shambles. However, The Sun's article "Homebuyers fume at tax differences" (July 31) falsely suggested that the only cause of the problem of unequal taxes is the property tax caps enacted to protect existing homeowners at the expense of new buyers.

The real culprit is that the state's system for assessing properties is completely arbitrary and irrational.

In Mount Vernon alone, nearly identical properties can have underlying assessments that vary by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The state frequently assesses very similar rowhouses that are apartment buildings at a fraction of the assessment of owner-occupied homes - although the state says its assessments are based on market values and the properties sell for comparable prices.

Such irrational assessments cause the tax burden to be spread unfairly, even taking tax caps into account.

Maryland's property tax assessment system requires a thorough overhaul.

Jonathan Fine

Baltimore

The writer is a participant in the "100 Under 100" initiative, which is appealing the assessments of more than 70 properties in the Mount Vernon area.

Comparable homes should pay same tax

Thanks for pointing out a major flaw in Maryland state property tax assessments ("Homebuyers fume at tax differences," July 31).

These unfair disparities in tax bills must be corrected. Officials of the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation should meet with legislators and discuss this problem. Homeowners should also press their legislators to take action.

People in comparable homes should pay the same taxes, regardless of when they purchased the house.

This is not happening, and that situation needs to be corrected.

David Boyd

White Hall

Good reasons to cap tax bills of owners

I find it surprising that Maryland attorneys general have argued that differences in real estate taxes on similar properties are unconstitutional ("Homebuyers fume at tax differences," July 31), given that they appear to find no fault with the state sales tax.

If I buy a shirt today at 50 percent off and you buy it tomorrow at full price, you will pay twice the tax I paid for an identical item.

Is the situation with real estate taxes all that different?

Indeed, there is a compelling state interest in limiting the rate of increase in real estate taxes for residents: preventing people from being taxed out of homes they have lived in for years.

On the other hand, there is no good reason for the inequity in sales taxes, except simplicity.

A property tax based exclusively on the owner's sales price would be similarly simple but even more inequitable than the present system.

Perhaps we should recognize that in Maryland's property taxes we have had a rare thing - a government that has found a way to be relatively fair to all in a difficult circumstance.

Andrew Fruchter

Baltimore

Liquor board needs to start serving city

The Sun's article on the city's Board of Liquor License Commissioners offered no surprises to those of us engaged in community revitalization ("Internal dissension hobbles enforcement by liquor board," July 30).

Time after time after time, the board shows little or no regard for the negative impact some of these establishments have on the communities in which they are located and no concern for the devaluation of neighbors' property values.

The board has ignored, and I suspect will continue to ignore, its own rules and has shown indifference to state liquor laws.

Just as important, it seems to answer to no one.

It's long past time for the liquor board to start to answer to the communities it is supposed to protect.

Jeff Sattler

Baltimore

The writer is a former executive director of the Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville.

A friendly state for sex offenders?

As I was reading "Registry for sex offenders has gaps" (July 28), I couldn't help but ask myself if Maryland is a "sex offender-friendly" state?

It's really pretty scary to think that out of the 4,300 registered sexual offenders in the state database, 3,000 are no longer supervised.

I believe that sex offenders need to be monitored for life.

According to a 1997 study, the recidivism rate for child sex offenders over a 25-year period is 52 percent. Given such statistics, how can it be that Maryland only requires sex offenders to be on the state registry for 10 years?

I agree with Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. that we need specialized training for parole officers who work with sex offenders and better treatment for sex offenders while they are incarcerated.

The problem is that as of today there is no known treatment for sex offenders that is really effective. Research in treating offenders is still very much in its infancy.

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