EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to reader-submitted query through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.
Some Richland County homeowners may be experiencing sticker shock when they look at their new property tax bills.
Some of it may be due to a new tax levy approved last November. More than likely, however, it's because the property value has increased due to the 2020 statewide triennial update.
Ohio law requires a county to reappraise property values every six years, last done locally in 2017. The "triennial update" is done halfway through that period by the Ohio Department of Taxation based on property sales in neighborhoods, all of which are reported to Columbus.
Richland County Auditor Pat Dropsey said the appraised property of a home may increase during the process if similar properties in the neighborhood are being sold at prices higher than their appraised value.
"Let's say my house and my neighbors' houses have all been appraised at $100,000. Then my neighbors sell their houses for $150,000 each. That information all goes to Columbus," Dropsey said.
Dropsey said the Ohio Department of Taxation reviewed local property sales over the last 18 months and has ordered the county to increase the value of "Class 1" properties, which are residential and agriculture. No increase was ordered for "Class 2" properties, which are largely commercial and industrial.
The change was effective in tax year 2020, which is collectible in 2021, the auditor said.
The percentage of property value increase is not uniform across the county. It's literally done parcel by parcel across the county's 75,000 parcels and more than 60 taxing districts, according to Dropsey.
"Every single property is an individual property in the eyes of the state," he said.
In some locations, valuations did not increase, he said.
The good news is local property owners do have the right to appeal the new valuation through the Richland County Board of Revision, though appeals must by filed by March 31.
Under state law, this three-member panel consists of Dropsey, Richland County Treasurer Bart Hamilton and Darrell Banks, chair of the Richland County Board of Commissioners in 2021. These elected officials can appoint representatives to serve with them or in their place as needed.
The auditor's office will notify the resident of the hearing date and those contesting the re-evaluation will have 15 minutes before the board to state their case.
One key homeowner argument, according to Dropsey, could be if the property owner bought the parcel within the last 12 to 18 months.
"That is a legitimate argument because the Ohio Supreme Court has said the best indicator of a property's value is an 'arms-length transaction,' which applies if you purchased the property within that time frame," he said.
Dropsey said those who have owned a property longer will need to research what similar-type houses have recently sold for in the same neighborhood or school district, looking for examples that would show their value should not have increased.
Dropsey said he anticipates more than 1,500 appeals will be filed.
"To my knowledge and recollection, I can only remember one individual who did not get some relief over the last 15 years," Dropsey said. "And that's because he came in screaming and yelling at the individuals in the room."
He strongly suggested those contesting the reappraisal bring documentation to help prove their case. The county must justify to the state any changes in property value made by the board of revision.
"(Property owners) have to put time and effort into the case to give us the tools we need to grant some kind of relief," Dropsey said. "The people on the board have always been helpful, but it's a two-way street.
"I strongly advise every single property owner to look at their property value. If they think it's too high, that they don't think they could sell it for that, they need to start look at sales of similar properties to justify their argument," he said.
The board can consider sales of similar properties; independent fee appraisals; itemized professional estimates of cost to repair deficiencies in a property; if the property has recently been sold, supporting documentation such as the closing statement and purchase contract; or if the property is income producing, owners need to provide income and expense statements.
Property owners can obtain the needed forms on the auditor's website or can call (419) 774-5501 to request them.