Study Questions Commercial Property Assessments in Montgomery County

As reported by the Washington Post, a recent study by Montgomery County’s Inspector General Edward Blansitt, found that a number of commercial property assessments were below market value.

Inspector General Edward Blansitt said that a study of 20 commercial properties found that those that sold recently for more than $10 million were assessed at an average of 68 percent of sales price. Buildings that sold for less than $700,000 were assessed at 90 percent of sales price.

Maryland is unusual in that the state handles local residential and commercial assessments. Counties can, however, contest the valuations before a state appeals board, the Maryland Tax Court and Circuit Court. But Blansitt noted that Montgomery has filed significantly fewer appeals in recent years: 57 in fiscal 2011 compared with as many as 727 in fiscal 2003. Data from some years were not available.

The report said that the county’s finance department has one staff member responsible for reviewing assessments for fairness and accuracy. That official has other duties and estimated that he spent about 5 percent of his time on appeal work, the report found.

The study concludes that the county should devote more resources to reviewing and challenging commercial assessments.

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