County real estate values are updated

The Washington County real estate valuation update program is nearing completion. This program has been carried out under an order from the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT). Letters informing property owners of their newly established valuations have been mailed this week. Careful reading of this article should answer many questions about the how’s and why’s of the value update.

Following the full reappraisal conducted per state law three years ago, the county auditor is required to update the value of real estate in the county as of Jan. 1, 2013. Why? To help assure that each person pays only their fair share of the tax burden by measuring the changes in market values that have occurred since the 2010 Revaluation. These updated values will be used to calculate the tax bills for tax year 2013, which will be paid in 2014. Please note that in most cases the bills paid in 2013 were based on values set in 2010, three years ago.

Let’s take a moment to review the housing market. A few years ago we were overrun with news reports talking about the “housing crisis”, bubbles bursting and markets in collapse. Thankfully, Washington County is not in Nevada, Florida, Arizona or even some other relatively closer market which may have had a significant housing slump. As a whole, we in Washington County did not experience a false inflation of values and therefore did not have to suffer through a painful correction.

Now national reports suggest a slowly recovering economy and generally stabilizing housing markets. In Ohio, the Ohio Association of Realtors recently reported monthly year-over-year gains in activity for over the last 2 years, the longest stretch of uninterrupted growth in 16 years of tracking Ohio home sales.

While these are broad indicators of improved housing markets, we must focus on a discussion of sales activity in Washington County. It is especially important to be aware that the values being measured are actual market selling prices versus the previously existing Auditor’s values (2010 values).

To measure the changes in value, all sales from each of Washington County’s 40 taxing districts have been examined for the last three years, 2010 through 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. A private mass appraisal firm with years of experience working on similar projects within Washington County was selected from a state list to lead the performance of the required analysis.

The new market values are then established as a result of the analysis. As a result of this process, it is critical to note that the values established are a reflection of our local market.

During the period of 2009 to 2012, sales activity has steadily increased both in terms of number of sales and the total value of the sales. In the broadest of terms from the county’s conveyance ledger, the actual sales data shows gross increases in the number of sales of over 14% and the value of total sales of over 42%.

Combining this overall information with an examination of individual sales, it is both fair and accurate to say that the activity of the local real estate market tells us generally that the new values reflect an increase in real estate values from three years ago.

The ODT has recommended 2013 property values to reflect a rise in residential values by about 6 percent on average since the 2010 reappraisal, or about 2% per year. The values did not change uniformly across the county. Some districts saw very little change and no districts were adjusted more than approximately 15 percent.

The increase recommended for agricultural property values averaged 5 percent per year, 15 percent for the three-year period. Again in this case, the values did not change uniformly across the county.

To be clear, this process is separate from the current agricultural use valuation (CAUV) program. Those values are set by a separate process by the State and those values have increased by significant, much greater amounts. For more information on these properties, please visit www.washingtoncountyauditor.us and click on “Have Questions About CAUV Values?”

If you believe the market value of your property as established by the county is higher or lower than what could be obtained in the marketplace, you have the right to appeal the value.

The place to begin is by contacting the county auditor’s office to discuss your property. We are now scheduling appointments with the appraisers between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25 to discuss the values.

If, after reviewing the value with the appraiser you are not satisfied, a formal complaint may be filed with the county board of revision at no cost. A complaint may be filed until March 31, 2014 and will be responded to with a hearing.

I’ve been asked what a property owner should bring to support their contention of a property’s value. The best documents are a recent certified appraisal, evidence from an arms length sale of the property, or information from comparable sales.

Please bear in mind that this entire process is about establishing values, not tax rates. We do not establish tax rates. Tax rates, which are expressed in mills, are largely set by the voting public. Although your value may have increased or decreased, your taxes will not necessarily change by the same percentage. Let me try to explain.

The effective tax millage for agricultural and residential properties in our county ranges from 38.32 to 48.63 at this time. Only the first ten mills (shared between your local school system, the county and township, village or city) and school districts, whose effective tax rates for operating levies are at what is called the 20.00 mill floor, will see revenue growth equal to the growth in assessed value. The remaining millage placed for taxation as a result of levies adopted by the public (i.e. schools, fire, EMS, cemetery, road), are limited, in the amount of revenue that they will generate, to generally the income estimate that was made at the time they were voted into effect. State law reduces these tax rates to compensate for inflation.

In any event, the ODT establishes the effective tax rates. We do not have rates for next year’s tax bills so this office cannot estimate your bills at this time. We should have the new rates by the end of 2013.

I want to take this opportunity to also point out that there are programs available to reduce a person’s property taxes and I would encourage anyone who thinks that they may qualify to contact my office for more information.

The homestead exemption program for those who are age 65 or permanently disabled and fall within the income guidelines.

Owner-occupied homesites are entitled to a 2 % tax rollback.

Properties of 10 acres or more devoted to commercial agricultural use may be eligible for enrollment in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) Program.

In closing, I want to thank you for your time and interest in reading this article.

We realize that property valuation is a sensitive issue and you have every right to know how your property’s value was established.

Our goals are to insure that your property value is fair and equitable and to provide you with accurate information regarding your property.

Please contact us at 373-6623, ext. 263 if you have concerns or would like additional information. The office will be closed Monday in observance of Columbus Day.

Bill McFarland is Washington County Auditor.