Delaware County Auditor Expects Schools To Lose From Re-Appraisals

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Every few years, county auditor’s offices re-assess property values. Some years the values go up, and some years – like what’s expected to happen this year – they go down. Franklin and Delaware Counties are doing their first re-evaluations since the housing market collapse. WOSU takes a look at how the re-appraisals will affect tax bills and government budgets.

Last year, Todd Tonucci from Dublin saw his annual property taxes go up about $1,200. The increase was the result of a home re-appraisal. Tonucci took out a permit to build a back deck, which he said prompted the re-evaluation.

He never installed the deck, but his home value went up 13 percent.

“With the real estate markets and where it had gone I was obviously surprised because home values, quite frankly, had been coming down especially in my neighborhood as well. So I was just not anticipating an increase, quite frankly, and then an increase of that magnitude,” Tonucci said.

So Tonucci looked up the values of comparable homes in his neighborhood. He took that information to the Board of Revisions and appealed his valuation. The board re-set his home’s value to $475, 000, lowering his taxes.

Since the housing bubble burst in 2008, property values have declined – in some cases – plummeted. On two streets in Tonucci’s neighborhood, nearly two dozen homes are underwater – the owners owe more than the home’s worth.

Both Delaware and Franklin County auditors predict property values will continue to decline in this year’s re-appraisals.

Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa said property owners can expect a five to ten percent decrease in market values. But that does not mean there will be much relief on property taxes because of a buffer in state law.

“Homeowners could expect to see a very modest decline in their tax bills,” Kaitsa said.

In 1976, lawmakers enacted safeguards to protect homeowners from sharp increases during housing booms, and protect local governments from sharp decreases during housing busts. Ohio Department of Taxation spokesman John Kohlstrand said these protections particularly affect school district budgets which depend heavily on property taxes.

“Schools will take a loss when property values decline, but not as much of a loss as you would think if we were strictly talking about tax rates and values because of the system of reduction factors that were designed to protect tax payers in the 1970s,” Kohlstrand said.

Despite the protections, Auditor Kaitsa expects Delaware County schools will see fairly significant declines in revenue due to the re-appraisals. He said Olentangy Local Schools, for example, could lose up to $1 million dollars in 2012 and that comes on the heels of expected state funding cuts this year.

“While it really doesn’t result in a significant tax savings to the individual homeowner, it has in the aggregate, a fairly substantial impact on the school districts,” Kaitsa said.

Schools budgets will not be the only ones faced with challenges. Kaitsa predicts Delaware County will see between a five and ten percent reduction in revenue next year, or up to $1 million.

In Franklin County, Auditor Clarence Mingo said the goal of the re-appraisals is to get homes back to an accurate market value.

“The values are likely skewed considerably. And that’s just a reflection of the real estate market. But the remedy for that is this re-appraisal. That’s why Ohio law says we have to do this every six years because there are periods in which values changed considerably, and this is likely one of those periods,” he said.

And, like in Delaware County, Mingo expects home prices to decline.

Of course even with the decline in property values, property taxes could rise in 2012 if voters approve additional levies this year.