There are 23 assessors for Baltimore, a city with 237,000 properties that need to be assessed every three years. Though their average load is lower than the state average, Young said the city's many commercial properties are more complicated to value than homes.
That won't free up assessors to do significantly more visual inspections, Young said. But, he added: "We're going to be in a situation where we have an adequate number of people to do the job we have to do."
Local jurisdictions may be willing to pitch in to bolster the state agency's capabilities. Baltimore City and several counties are looking into the idea of paying for more assessors at the agency, known as SDAT.
"We have had several informal discussions with SDAT over the past several years about seeing what the city could do to be helpful in getting additional assessors," said Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
"Other counties have similar concerns about the issue," he said.
The state currently charges local jurisdictions for almost all of the property assessment costs. Baltimore paid the agency $3.6 million this year, while Baltimore County paid $4.6 million, more than any county in the area.
More accurate valuation would almost certainly mean higher tax bills for some owners and lower ones for others. O'Doherty said city finance officials have pointed out the possibility that the end result could be less money for the city.
Young said he would always welcome additional staff. "Obviously I feel the more employees I have, particularly in the assessing field, we can do a bigger job," he said. "We can look at more properties. We can extend the kinds of checks and things we do."
Such checks might have caught the problems with Cordish's property years ago.
Cordish is a vice president at the family-owned Cordish Cos., which developed the Power Plant and Power Plant Live! retail and entertainment venues downtown, and is building a slot-machine casino at Arundel Mills.
In 1996, he bought a 2,000-square-foot rowhouse on Montgomery Street, property records show. He later acquired the two rowhouses connected to the home. By mid-2007, all three were collectively valued by assessors at $1.1 million.
In 2008 he combined them into one residence, while also moving ahead on plans to build a rear addition and roof deck. State assessors put the value for the consolidated property at $730,000. That was well below the $1.1 million for all three, but Young said the unified parcel was "worth less than the sum of its parts."
The state says its reassessment error occurred soon thereafter. In late 2008, properties across Federal Hill were due for their once-every-three-years revaluation, effective July 2009. Two of Cordish's three addresses no longer existed, having been merged.
When assessors reviewed the consolidated property, for some reason the agency's reassessment file did not reflect the expanded footprint, according to Owen C. Charles, deputy director of the assessments agency. Instead it showed the much smaller square footage of the original house Cordish bought.
So instead of valuing a home with 4,600 square feet, Charles said, assessors based their new calculation on a home of 2,000 square feet.
"There was an error made at the point of reassessment," Charles said. "What it amounts to is the value at the reassessment was calculated on a lesser enclosed area than it should have been."
The flawed calculation led to a much lower assessment of $552,000. While Federal Hill owners that year saw values rise 14 percent on average, Cordish saw his fall by 24 percent. That's where things stood until this month, when owners got the results of the latest triennial revaluation.
Once again, assessors failed to catch the mistake on Cordish's home, working from the inaccurate file and apparently not eyeballing the property. This time his home was assessed further downward to $522,000 for the next tax year beginning in July.
After The Sun inquired this month, assessment officials found the errors. They now say the combined home should have been revalued for 2009 at an amount "no less than $944,932."
Because the higher value would have been phased-in over three years and Cordish got a tax break given to owner-occupants, his net tax bills should have been $10,600 higher than what the city billed him.
On top of that, the state says it also overstated Cordish's homestead property tax credit for the 2008-2009 tax year, saving him an additional $3,200 in taxes. That brings his total windfall to $13,800, based on the revised assessments.
Charles said Cordish will receive a modified tax bill for the current tax year that began last July, and his new assessment will be revised upward as well. But state lawyers will have to determine if Cordish can be billed for earlier years, Charles said, given that the agency missed information sitting in its own files.
"Obviously," he said, "this would be an error on our part."