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Latest state tax assessments show residential, commercial increases in parts of Howard County

The Baltimore Sun

State assessments for residential and commercial properties in some areas of Howard County saw an average rise of 8.5 percent, continuing a years-long upswing in values used to calculate the taxes property owners pay.

The state reassesses one third of properties on its books each year, and this year assessments rose on 87.5 percent of the 696,974 properties reviewed statewide.

In Howard County, areas that were assessed include Ellicott City, Marriottsville, West Friendship and parts of Columbia west of Route 29.

The assessments for those areas came in with an 8.1 percent increase in residential properties and a 9.9 percent increase for commercial tracts — for an average of 8.5 percent overall.

Statewide, areas assessed for 2019 saw an average of 8.2 percent increase for residential land, while commercial owners’ assessments rose an average of 12.5 percent, the state Department of Assessment and Taxation reported.

This is the sixth consecutive year of statewide increases. Assessments mailed last week to owners show increases in every county that was assessed as well as in Baltimore City, according to a report by the state agency.

“It was the first time since 2008 that all counties have seen an increase in their property totals,” said Charles Cluster, the department’s real property state supervisor. “It could turn but for the foreseeable future, I see slow and steady growth.”

“It confirms what we are seeing in the residential market, which is a strong housing market but constrained by low supply — which can make it challenging for first-time buyers,” said Merry Tobin, president of Maryland Realtors. “This is not a surprise. We’ve known prices are going up steadily, not running up.”

Tobin added that the increased values bode well for a strong selling season in the spring.

The assessments are phased in over three years, and property owners pay higher taxes to the state and county where they live based on local rates.

The state caps increases to 10 percent a year. Most counties and the city also have caps limiting the increases from 2 percent to 10 percent annually for homeowners who fill out a one-time application. Called the Homestead Tax Credit, it has no income requirements. Another program called the Homeowners’ Tax Credit does limit property taxes based on income.

The department planned to include a page in the letters to property owners about both tax credits, which the state says saves property owners more than $260 million in taxes a year.

Still, the increased assessments typically bring protests because of tax implications. Cluster said about 3.6 percent of those reassessed officially appeal; of those, 30 percent to 35 percent are able to get the values adjusted.

Appeals for this year’s cycle can be lodged through Feb. 11.

Last year Howard County saw a 15.5 percent increase in commercial property value — among the greatest gains in the state — in the areas that were assessed. The 2018 assessment included a swath of Columbia east of U.S. 29 and north of Route 32, as well as Elkridge. Residential property values rose a more modest 2.7 percent in those areas.

Next year, areas in the southern part of the county including Savage, North Laurel and Fulton, as well as the western part of the county, are scheduled to be assessed.

In this year’s round, Prince George’s County had the largest increase at 19.2 percent — likely due in part to rising values in recent years around National Harbor, the large commercial development along the Potomac River in Oxon Hill that includes the MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino. New housing for students near the University of Maryland, College Park, was also a factor.

Allegany, Kent and Somerset had the smallest increases, all less than 3 percent.

Among commercial properties, large increases were seen in Frederick, Montgomery and Worcester — all had assessments that jumped more than 15 percent. The rural Eastern Shore county of Wicomico rose the most: an average increase of 30.9 percent.

David Ryan, executive director of the Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Corp., attributed the jump in commercial assessments to several factors, including a fast-growing population in the county and specifically in areas such as Salisbury and Fruitland. Salisbury is benefiting from its proximity to beaches and its location at the crossroads of routes 50 and 13, he said.

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