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Government & Politics

Moore announces leadership change at property assessment agency

Tax assessments for one-third of more than 2 million residential properties were not mailed out before the end of the year. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) Director Michael Higgs has been replaced as Gov. Wes Moore (D) begins a search for a new leader for the beleaguered agency.

Moore announced late Thursday afternoon that he has appointed Daniel K. Phillips to be interim director of the agency.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve and I am honored to step into this role,” Phillips said in a statement. “I look forward to running an efficient, transparent Department as we carry out our work on behalf of all Marylanders.”

Since 2020, Phillips has served as the agency’s state supervisor of the Real Property Division at SDAT. He recently completed his 35th year at the department. During that time, he held a variety of positions including senior area supervisor of Commercial and Industrial Assessments, supervisor of assessments for Wicomico County, and as a commercial and industrial assessor in multiple counties.

The Eastern Shore native holds a degree in business administration from Salisbury University.

Moore said Phillips will serve as interim director while his administration searches for a permanent replacement.

A spokesperson for Moore declined to discuss Higgs’ departure, citing personnel issues.

Higgs’ continued role at SDAT appeared in jeopardy after it was learned that the agency failed to send assessment notices to about 100,000 people by the end of January as required by law.

The error, if left unfixed, could cost county and municipal governments nearly $200 million over a three year period.

A bill that would extend the mailing deadline retroactively is working its way through the General Assembly. It has passed in the House of Delegates and is under consideration by the Senate Rules Committee.

Higgs was appointed by then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2016. It was Higgs’ second appointment by the two-term Republican governor.

Initially, Higgs, a telecommunications attorney from Montgomery County, was appointed in 2015 to serve on the Public Service Commission. At the time, he was also chair of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.

Higgs’ posts on the social media platform then known as Twitter derailed his confirmation to the commission, which regulates utilities in Maryland.

Moore, Hogan’s successor, opted not to replace Higgs upon taking office 13 months ago.


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Moore announces leadership change at property assessment agency