MACo Endorses Smarter Property Assessment Tech

Andrea Mansfield, on behalf of MACo, testified in support of SB 115, Property Tax Assessments – Inspection of Property, on February 3, 2016 to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

This bill authorizes the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) to use aerial or ground level photography or other similar technologies to perform property assessments. The use of these technologies will enable SDAT to operate more efficiently when assessing properties, which will ultimately improve the accuracy and timeliness of assessments.

Under current law, SDAT is required to perform an exterior physical inspection on all real property once every three years for assessment purposes. However, staffing levels have prohibited SDAT from meeting this statutory requirement.

SB 115 does not eliminate the three-year requirement. Instead it requires a review of each property every three years using either aerial / ground level photography, or a physical inspection.

An Assessment Workgroup (AWG), established pursuant to Senate Bill 172, Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2014, found that physical inspections are necessary on some periodic basis to ensure accuracies of assessments, but that new technology (oblique aerial photography) could be used to verify relevant property characteristics and update changes on properties without the need for a physical inspection.

As SDAT was just beginning a pilot on the use of this technology in Anne Arundel and Frederick Counties, the AWG recommended that no statutory changes be made to the time frame for physical inspections at the time of the final AWG report and that the issue be revisited at the conclusion of the pilot.

From the MACo testimony,

MACo understands that the pilot was very successful in both jurisdictions and therefore, supports the use of this technology to assist with the assessment process. This approach will create operational efficiencies and enable SDAT staff to focus on those properties that need a physical inspection and new properties to assure property assessments are accurate and timely.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.