"I'm expecting to see a positive number at this time next year," he said.

This is good news for county governments, whose revenue streams have dried up partially because of declining property values.

Wynn, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors' president, noted that many jurisdictions' tax bases will be helped by value gains for commercial properties. Nonresidential properties that were reassessed this year saw an average increase in value of 11.4 percent, according to the state. Howard County's commercial properties saw the largest average increase in the metro region, with a 17 percent jump.

Plus, new construction in some areas will help buoy tax income by adding to the taxable base, Young said. "Based on these assessment numbers, the local governments are not going to see a really dramatic drop in revenue — it's more of a flat picture. It's going to be flatter than they probably would like," he said.

Although meaningful gains for municipal treasuries may still be a few years down the road, some homeowners see the continued decline in values as a potential windfall.

"If our property tax is going to go down, that's wonderful," said Jenny Clarke Hubbard, president of the Sabina-Mattfeldt Community Association. The narrow neighborhood of about 40 homes runs between Interstate 83 and Falls Road from the city-county line down to Northern Parkway and was part of this year's reassessment.

"We've been very fortunate" to have stable property values, said Hubbard, who has been living in Sabina-Mattfeldt for 13 years. Good schools, a well-loved park and neighbors who keep things up have made it so "if a house should come on the market … it gets snatched up so quickly," she said.

If a decline in the average property value in Baltimore this year means a decline in tax bills, that only makes the neighborhood more desirable, she said.

But lower taxable values don't necessarily mean that tax bills will be going down for all homeowners, according to Young.

Falling home values could mean some property owners will not see the same benefit this year from the Homestead Tax Credit, a legal measure that keeps property taxes on homeowner-occupied residences from increasing more than 10 percent (or less, depending on the jurisdiction) each year. That means some residences' tax bills could actually go up, he said.

The new assessment figures for Anne Arundel will have little effect on the county's revenue, said County Executive John R. Leopold. He's more concerned about making sure his constituents know about the Dec. 31 deadline to apply for the homestead credit, which can prevent homeowners' bills from skyrocketing if their assessments go up a lot.

In order to ensure the correct property owners are receiving the homestead credit, more than five years ago the legislature instituted a one-time application requirement. Monday is the postmark deadline to meet the requirement for next year's tax bill.

Young's office has been scrambling to keep up with the thousands of applications pouring in, he said.

"We had delivered to us 12,000 applications in one day," Young said of the bags that the mail carrier dropped off Wednesday, the day after Christmas.

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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