The Adams County Auditor’s website officially updated tax bills last week. Many property tax owners may see a pleasant surprise: a tax decrease. While property taxes have continued to increase nearly every year in Adams County for over a decade, the obligations to pay-off the bond for the new construction of the four Adams County/Ohio Valley Schools have been met. Voters first approved the bonds in the mid-1990’s. The bonds have been paid by property taxes of local residents.
The tax reduction didn’t come without controversy. In the summer, the Adams County/Ohio Valley School board held a public hearing on raising taxes without a vote of the electorate, as they are permitted to do so by law up to a certain millage. Many members of the community were opposed, and the board eventually relented and reduced their tax increase. Had local school board officials allowed the millage rate to be the same, tax rates would have decreased further. The decrease was also made smaller by voters passing, although not by a large margin, a new Adams County Children Services levy in November.
How are property rates determined?
According to the Ohio Bar Association, each auditor in Ohio’s 88 counties works on a six-year cycle to determine property values and keep them up to date. Year 1, referred to as the reappraisal year, is when the county auditor views the properties and conducts a full reassessment of their values. In many smaller counties, the auditor’s appraisal staff will drive around looking for changes made since the last assessment.
Today, in most larger counties, auditors depend more on aerial photography or drones to photograph properties and then use sophisticated computer programs to measure and document recent physical changes made to the properties. Once the auditor determines the reappraisal value, it generally stays in effect for Years 2 and 3 of the tax cycle unless the property is sold, a casualty occurs to the property or an improvement is added.
Year 4, referred to as the update year, is when county auditors make adjustments to property values based upon data gathered from sales that occurred in Years 2 and 3, with analysis provided by knowledgeable market participants like real estate brokers and investors, and economic reports. Values generally remain the same for Years 5 and 6, again, unless the property is sold, a casualty occurs or an improvement is made.
Adams County residents can challenge their tax bill.
Many local residents are unaware of a provision in Ohio law that allows you to challenge your tax bill and the valuation set by Adams County Auditor David Gifford. Normally, owners can challenge a county auditor’s valuation just one time in each three-year cycle (a triennium). Property values are challenged via a “Complaint Against Valuation” that is filed with the local Board of Revision (BOR). The same complaint form, which asks 14 questions about the property, is used statewide. It can be downloaded from nearly all county auditor websites as well as from the Ohio Department of Taxation’s website. The Ohio Bar Association says that it is important to fill out the form carefully because incorrect information can result in the dismissal of a case. For more information on obtaining this form, contact the office of the Adams County Auditor at 937-544-2364.
Common reasons for challenging property values include declining market values for similar properties, declining rents coupled with increased expenses and vacancies, a property that has become functionally or economically obsolete, and damage or destruction, whether caused by fire, flood, ground movement, mold or wind. In addition, people who recently purchased a property in an arms-length transaction (when both buyer and seller act independently) for less than the county auditor’s value, often have a strong basis for filing a tax appeal.
Tax bills will be due in Adams County next month.