County residents see higher property tax bills following reappraisals | News, Sports, Jobs

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LISBON — Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck and Auditor Nancy Gause Milliken both said Wednesday there’s nothing they can do about higher property valuations increasing tax bills for residents.

Personnel in both offices have been bombarded with phone calls since the latest tax bills came out last week showing the results of the recent reappraisal, which Milliken said is mandated by the Ohio Department of Taxation every six years.

The reappraisal takes into consideration whether there’s been new construction or any demolition on a property and looks at what properties in the area have been selling for on the open market.

Milliken attributed the higher property valuations to the fact that people are buying properties for more than the value listed by the county auditor’s office.

“We have areas in the county where sales are going very high,” she said.

For instance, she said if a house is valued at $100,000, but houses in the area are selling for $300,000, that’s why the value for tax purposes is going up for property owners. The county is required to base taxes on the value of a home. If the value goes up, the tax goes up.

Milliken said property owners have the opportunity to file a complaint if they believe they have a legitimate reason why their home should be valued at less than the value listed by the auditor’s office. The best form of evidence would be a property appraisal by an appraiser and photos showing the condition of a home.

Formal complaints can be filed at the auditor’s office for a hearing to be scheduled before the county Board of Revision, which consists of the county auditor, the county treasurer and one county commissioner.

Milliken suggested that property owners look at property sales in their area.

“If they’re selling for much higher than what we have them valued at, that’s why your taxes went up,” she said.

Residents can come into the auditor’s office at the downtown courthouse and ask about sales for their area. She said that sometimes helps people understand the reason for the increases.

During a reappraisal year, the county contracts with John G. Cleminshaw Appraisers to view every property in the county, in most cases via an aerial view, along with looking at sales in the area and the cost to build homes in the area. If something is different on a property, say there’s a new building or one torn down, a representative of the auditor’s office goes to see the property, knocks on the door if someone’s home or leaves a card. All the information is then sent to the Ohio Department of Taxation to determine the valuation.

Milliken said the areas where the values increased the most included Lake Tomahawk, Guilford Lake, St. Clair Township and Columbiana, but the increases were all over the county.

Increases to values ranged anywhere from 18 percent to more than 50 percent or higher.

In three years, the state will perform the triennial update and take another look at home values based on sales, which is sometimes when adjustments occur if sales go down.

For people on fixed incomes expecting their bill to be a certain amount, the increases likely came as a surprise, prompting the many phone calls questioning the reason.

“I feel really bad for the senior citizens,” Milliken said.

The majority of the taxes go to the school districts, then the subdivisions, with only two-tenths of a mill going to the county for debt. The breakdown is listed on tax bills. How the property valuations are figured rests with the Ohio Department of Taxation. In past years, Milliken has challenged the state, but this time when they looked at the sales and what the auditor’s office had listed as the value, they had no argument for a challenge.

“Unless the laws are changed, there’s not a lot that we can do. I don’t like it either, but it’s the law we have to follow,” she said.

Halleck agreed, commenting during the commissioners’ meeting Wednesday on the phone calls regarding the tax bills and noting “we’re powerless to change it.”

He said it’s hard on senior citizens and he doesn’t know how they do it.

“I know we all wish there was more we could do as a board,” he said.

mgreier@mojonews.com

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