NEWBURY, Ohio – I live in an area east of Cleveland where the property taxes are fairly high and these are continually rising even though property values are continuing to plummet. I have been reading about this situation in other areas of our country, and I have learned quite a bit about the process by talking with the Geauga County Auditors office and from researching how others have been handling this same situation.
We received our most recent tax assessment in the form of a letter from the Geauga County Auditors office, which is run by Frank J. Gliha. This assessment a on a six-year cycle, and these are being done in advance of a rate hike that we will be hit with sometime in the near future. I feel that the increased property tax is a result of a misguided assessor and want to correct this unfair tax assessment before it is applied to my property tax bill. So what happens next is that if you choose to dispute your tax assessment then the burden of proof becomes your responsibility to show the tax people your side of the story.
Property taxes in Geauga County are higher than other counties around our area which is not a problem for those people who moved here later and which are perhaps more wealthy than I am. These enormous homes are built which can raise property values around you, which is great providing the home they built is “comparable” to yours. Then in this light the comparison is likely a fair valuation, but just because the house up the street sold for $500,000 does not automatically mean that mine is now worth the same!
Once the assessment is posted it becomes the tax payers responsibility to fight the assessment by spending more money on property valuations via an appraisal. These can cost hundreds of dollars and even if you can prove that the property is not at the same value that the tax assessor claims, you may still lose since my objection to the increased tax will be voted on in a committee format by people who find it in their best interest to increase my taxes as they are paid at least in part through said taxes!
Now I am entrenched in a battle of facts and figures with a local government entity which survives on the funding it receives from monies generated through my property taxes. The problem I have with this entire process is that I am treated like a number with them not having any idea what my situation is before they proceed to jump up my tax rate without consent. In fact I wanted to know exactly what allows them to march onto private property unannounced in the first place? Turns out it is part of the Ohio revised code and our legislators have approved this process since the seventies!
My first line of communication was via email to the assessors office asking a few questions which were not exactly crystal clear on the tax assessors website. So I detailed my situation and clearly stated what I thought was a rational and lucid explanation of what I know to be fact. The response I received was the most incredibly snippy email that I have ever received from a public servant in any capacity. I intend to make sure this person’s supervisor is made aware of their tone in that email. I also intend to make sure this person knows exactly why I am disappointed in their lack of compassion for those of us who are finding it really difficult to get by on the limited income we have.
Needless to say I am getting all of my paperwork together for a meeting with the actual site inspector who came to my property at some mysterious time in the recent past. What I intend to learn from this person is exactly what makes them feel that my taxes should go up 25% when the economy is doing so poorly and there is no end in sight for the area I live in. In fact my house appears to be about 25% lower in value for now, and so worst case I plan to ask for a reduction below what I am currently paying! We will see how that plays out, but I can see us agreeing to meeting in the middle which will be exactly what I am paying now! That is of course unless one of the folks in the County Auditors office wants to buy my place for the amount they say it is worth! Let’s see how that conversation plays out shall we?
A list of the documents that I intend to show the tax assessors will be the last appraisal we had done, then I will include the mortgage document which reflects exactly what the bank who holds my mortgage thinks my property is worth, and next I will show them the insurance documents which are the basis of two important things, first it will reflect my insurance companies valuation of my property, and secondly it will show exactly what the insurance company feels is the current “replacement cost” of my property. I am not the only resident of Newbury Township in Geauga County Ohio who is unhappy with the recent property tax increase, and I intend to fight this one to the most reasonable and hopefully positive conclusion.
Next I intend to learn from them exactly what I need to do in order to get this reversed before the actual tax implementation date. So my next few weeks of free time will be filled in with this task and hopefully I can avoid having to pay for a new appraisal, and ideally I can keep the property taxes at the same value as they are now.
Politically speaking this is one of the worst situations since it is not really any elected official who has made the decision to increase my property taxes, but an employee of the local government. These same folks who are concerned with hanging baskets of flowers in town for $20,000 per year (using my tax money) and i cannot afford to put gas in my car. Nothing about the way property tax is currently being calculated makes any sense at all.
It seems to me that this process is quite broken and it makes no sense to me how the tax assessment does not take into account the health of our economy? Why do I have to pay for public schools even though I have no children to send into any school? Where is my tax reduction for lessening the burden on an overtaxed school system? I get nothing but another increase in my basic living expenses.
It is no wonder our seniors are finding it hard to keep living in the homes they bought or built fifty or sixty years ago! I assure you that most seniors would not even know where to begin fighting the County tax assessor on this particular issue! Hopefully my outcry can somehow be used to help others in this same situation as well.
Facts and figures can be found on the Geauga County Auditor website:
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