Ocean City Today

Assessments show stable county growth

Property values up about 2 percent to $15.2 billion
By Brian Gilliland | Dec 07, 2017

(Dec. 8, 2017) The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation this week released its preliminary numbers on property values in Worcester County, finding the assessable base has grown from $14.8 billion to $15.2 billion from the same time period last year.

The report also spins the numbers forward, giving an estimate of what the assessable base should look like on July 1, 2018, or the start of the 2019 fiscal year. The county’s assessable base is expected to be almost $15.4 billion, up from almost $15.1 billion last year.

These numbers are used by the county to help determine property taxes, including the constant yield rate, and are only preliminary. Another report will be delivered by the state in March.

A higher assessable base means more tax revenue for the county. County taxes are calculated at the rate of 83.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, with the rate being set by the county commissioners with each budget. With the higher assessable base value, the constant yield rate, the minimum amount of property tax that needs to be charged to maintain the same funding level as last year, could be reduced.

If the base and tax rates remain constant until the budget is adopted, the county could realize $1.7 million in new revenue, or about one percent of the entire fiscal 2018 budget.

According to state law, if county government desires to set the tax rate above the constant yield rate during a budget year, a public hearing must be held. Worcester County generally holds its public hearings on the budget in May.

“The message we’ve been presenting is of slow and steady growth. It’s nothing like it was at the peak of the peak, but the property values are slowly recovering and that’s what we anticipated,” County Treasurer Phil Thompson said.

Thompson said the measured growth reached between 1.4-1.5 percent during the last year, and that’s what county residents should expect for the foreseeable future. During the peak boom years between 2004-2006, cumulative county property values exceeded $20 billion.

“We’re trending the way we were 10 years prior to the boom time of 2003-2006,” he said.

Worcester County is divided into three assessment zones by the state, with one reassessment taking place each year, which is why the economic downturn of 2008 took longer to be felt here and recovery has seemed to be slower than in other areas. One zone is reassessed each year, with this year’s zone being limited to Ocean City.

Traditionally, the resort area has been the major driver of property value assessments in the county. However, with the growth and development in West Ocean City, Thompson said the playing field might be leveling off.

“With Tanger Outlets coming to town and the recent hotel development there, we’re seeing steady growth,” he said.

Taxes are responsible for two-thirds of the county’s revenue, Thompson said.

Next year, the portion of the county south of Berlin, along with the easternmost parts of West Ocean City and South Point are scheduled to be reassessed.

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