2010 has been a trying year for the Prince George's County government.
Former County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife were recently arrested on charges of witness and evidence tampering regarding an "alleged development deal." Since then, new County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is attempting to restore the people's faith in local government. This task, however, is daunting in light of the recent scandal and burst housing bubble. The real estate market is fragile – Prince George’s County has led Maryland in the number of foreclosures since 2008.
Prior to 2007, the county was awash in funds due to the healthy housing market and steadily-rising market values. Property taxes were high and the coffers full. Because of that, the county spent about $1 billion over several years, hired over a hundred police officers and gave more money to the local School District.
Since then, however, the county has instituted a hiring freeze and raised property taxes. For 2011, about 42 percent of Prince George's county’s budget will come from the state.
Over half of the county's tax base comes from property taxes. It is still the largest source of the county's revenue. Property tax revenues for 2011 are expected to increase by $15.4 million (2.2 percent) over last year's budget.
Prince George's County has had a huge residential value decrease this year, to the tune of $13 billion lost. Many residents have noticed a drop in their property assessments, which are re-assessed every three years in Maryland. The most recent assessments were probably shocking for some long-time residents, since this was the "largest decrease in real estate values for residential properties" in the history of Prince George’s County.
Properties are assessed based on recent sales figures over the past three years. The local Property Appraiser's office is attempting to keep the assessments as stable as possible to avoid creating huge problems for the county, but there is no escaping the fact that home values have dropped dramatically. Few residents will see their assessments rise this year.
Those who wish to appeal their property tax bills should contact ValueAppeal before February 11th, which is the Prince George’s County deadline.