Baltimore Sun continues its series focusing on Baltimore City’s property tax system with a interesting side look at how the state’s assessment office made mistakes undervaluing a specific property belonging to a son of a prominent real estate developer. There are several important points that jump out:
1. The state does the assessments but the local counties and Baltimore City are the ones who benefit since they collect majority of the property tax. This presents an inherent problem since the state does not want to fund operations which are not bringing in income, as illustrated by the complaints in the article about not sufficient staffing. Even though the counties and the city reimburse the state, apparently it is not enough.
2. The city is happy to leave the current system alone since accurate assessments are more likely to cost city money overall, implying that most properties are really over assessed. This dove tails rather nicely with what the Washington Post wrote recently about the impending implosion of local assessments, most of which are based on several years back and the height of the real estate market (hat tip: Adam Meister). Worse, according to the numbers quoted by the Post from Baltimore officials, revenue from property tax is scheduled to decline by about $25 million per year for the next few years. That means that several years from now the city will be looking at a $100-150 million hole.
3. The most galling thing in the article is the fact that the head of the state’s department of assessments had the gall to say that assessors don’t have time to visit properties! There are numerous public and private resources, free and low cost, which allow you to see imagery of real estate. Plus the city has droves of housing inspectors giving out sanitation fines, all armed with cameras. In the words of the Facebook generation, “dude, you never heard of Google Maps?”
P.S. Here is a Google Maps street view of the property Baltimore Sun wrote about:
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