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Rising property assessments


WHAT RECESSION? Maryland property values are soaring, according to the latest state assessments, with the sharpest jump in nearly a decade.

Homeowners may cheer the presumable increase in their fortunes. But the taxman cometh.

With an average increase of 5.3 percent in property assessments over each of the next three years, that should mean higher tax revenues for the state and counties.

The most important implication is the resilience of the statewide economy and the continued strong demand for housing in most parts of the state.

It's not just property values that have bolstered the state economy. Federal statistics show Maryland had the fifth-highest per capita personal income in the nation throughout the past decade.

But income tax revenues are slipping, forcing governments to cut back on budget projections and look to higher property tax rates. Local rates will be set in the spring, and the healthy rise in state-conducted assessments may spare county officials from having to raise rates by much.

One-third of the 2.1 million properties in Maryland are revalued each year, with any increases phased in equally over three years for tax purposes. The 5.3 percent average annual rise in the latest reassessments compares with a 1.3 percent increase three years ago.

Property values boomed in the 1970s and '80s, assuring local governments rising revenues without tax rate hikes. In the past decade, the assessment growth was much more modest. The latest figures may signal a resurgence in yearly property value growth. Tax officials, at least, are keeping their fingers crossed.

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