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Senate to decide on use of aerial photos in tax assessments

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Residents in Frederick or Anne Arundel counties may have seen aircraft flying over their property taking photos. State tax assessors there have been using such flyovers on a trial basis to determine property taxes. And the state Senate is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to keep drones out of the property assessment business.

Advocates for the program say photos taken from the air can reach properties the human assessors don’t have time for. The additional assessments are expected to generate $1.5 billion in new tax revenues.

But Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery County Democrat, said that’s not a good enough reason. 

"We kind of felt that flying drones over people’s houses in order to raise their property tax assessments by $1.5 billion might not be the smartest thing to do," he said. 

Manno said he is concerned for individuals’ privacy.

And he’s worried about photos of high-security federal facilities — such as Fort Meade, Camp David and the National Security Agency — getting into the wrong hands.

A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan's administration said the State Department of Assessments of Taxation has only used manned planes, not drones, for the program, and has no plans to use drones.

This story has been updated to reflect the use of manned aircraft, rather than unmanned drones, in the program.