In response to the letter to the editor “Rising Appraisal Values Raise Questions” published by the Akron Beacon Journal on January 3, 2021, I felt compelled to respond to the assertions regarding the property tax reappraisal process and offer clarity and transparency by providing facts so there are no misconceptions or confusion.
In Ohio, the assessment of real property for taxation purposes is a statutory function of a County Auditor (Per Summit County Charter, the Fiscal Officer is Auditor, Recorder, and Treasurer). The completion and submittal of a reappraisal is subject to supervision by the State of Ohio Tax Commissioner.
As your Fiscal Officer, I am required by the State of Ohio, and Ohio Revised Code Sections 5715.33 and 5713.34 to adjust the true value of taxable real property every six years to reflect the current fair market value. In Fiscal Year 2020, the County of Summit was required to conduct a sexennial reappraisal. To reiterate, conducting the 2020 sexennial reappraisal was not discretionary, it was mandated by the State of Ohio Tax Commissioner.
There are times when duly sworn elected officials must carry out statutorily mandated duties irrespective of current circumstances and hardships that are afflicting the community. Due in part to the pandemic, I submitted a request to the State of Ohio Tax Commissioner requesting an extension until 2021. My request for an extension was based on COVID-19 related economic uncertainties, a rising unemployment rate, and the unprecedented adversity that residential and commercial property owners were facing. Regretfully, this request was denied. In fact, I was informed that if I failed to submit the tentative abstract of tax values in a timely manner, the State of Ohio would use their authority to withhold funding from Summit County, which, in principle, would affect a wide variety of services the citizens of Summit County rely heavily upon.
The sexennial reappraisal process began in May of 2018. As a result of this full appraisal, county appraisers physically visited approximately 228,000 residential parcels within Summit County. In order to arrive at a fair market value, my appraisal staff will factor in data such as valid sales, arms-length transactions, comparable sales data, structural characteristics, and market trends. As your Fiscal Officer, I am committed to providing the most accurate and fair home values to the taxpayers of Summit County and I can assure you that every effort was made to arrive at a fair and equitable market value.
As previously discussed, the State of Ohio, through the Tax Commissioner, has the complete authority to accept or deny a county’s submitted abstract of real property. Our initial submission in August of 2020 requested an overall increase of 8.85 percent. Our submittal was denied as was a second proposal made in early September. Through correspondence with the Tax Commissioner, I was informed that my values were “too soft” and the State ordered an overall county wide increase of 14 percent. We were able to agree on an overall 12 percent increase in valuation, which the State approved in late October of 2020. Please note that this was not a reflection on the County of Summit as 41 of 88 counties within the State were mandated to complete a triennial or sexennial appraisal, and of the 41 counties, a great majority were initially denied. (The County Auditors’ Association of Ohio is organizing a subcommittee to examine the basis of the Tax Commissioner’s demand for increased valuation of real property).
As a result of the increase in property values, it is important for homeowners to understand that property taxes do not change proportionately to the change in valuation. In 1976, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 920, which is designed to protect property owners from tax increases due to inflation. As the cost of groceries, automobiles, clothing, and other essentials increase with inflation, so does the value of real property. HB 920 also serves to ensure that each property owner pays their fair share of taxes.
I understand the devastating impact this pandemic has had on so many businesses and families in our community, and I am profoundly sympathetic for those who have faced hardship as a result. To date, the actions of the Federal Government has had an overwhelming impact on not just the local real estate market, but the entire Country. As the Fed continues to pump trillions of dollars into the economy and maintain historically low interest rates, this has greatly affected the supply-side market resulting in a continuous rise in residential housing prices.
Real property values may increase or decrease over time, however, not at the same rate. Therefore, a reappraisal is necessary as it ensures fairness and equity for all property owners.
For this reason, property owners have the opportunity to file a complaint against our valuation. Complaints are investigated and reviewed by the Board of Revision. The Board of Revision will conduct a hearing and issue a decision. At the hearing, parties have the opportunity to present evidence and to make legal arguments in support of their position. This opportunity ensures transparency and fairness in our appraisal process. I strongly encourage property owners to file with the Board of Revision if they feel their property appraisal value is incorrect.
Property owners may obtain a complaint form (Form DTE 1) by calling 330-926-2559, by email at BOR@summitoh.net, or by visiting our website at http://FiscalOffice.summitoh.net and choosing the Board of Revision complaint link on our home page. Per the Ohio Revised Code, complaints must be filed beginning January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021.
In closing, it is very important to me to convey the fact that I understand the financial and emotional impact this pandemic has had on the residents of our county. I am also sympathetic to the unfortunate timing of the State mandated revaluation of real estate. I want taxpayers to know that relief is available, and there are several services my office can provide to assist you. I have instructed my staff to work with every taxpayer who has fallen behind on tax payment obligations or those who are facing financial hardship, and I plan to use every available measure to assist the taxpayers of Summit County through this unprecedented and uncharted time.
I encourage those who are facing adversity or financial strain to contact my office at 330-643-2588 or via email at email@example.com to learn more about all of our programs that offer assistance.
I want to hear from you, and it is important that I hear from you in order to best serve the residents and taxpayers of Summit County. Please reach out to my office regarding any property valuation questions or concerns at 330-643-2710 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristen M. Scalise CPA, CFE
Summit County Fiscal Officer