A bipartisan bill to freeze property taxes for eligible seniors was introduced Tuesday as one of several legislative responses to help Ohio’s homeowners cope with soaring property valuations.
Under the bill, Ohioans 70 years old or older who make less than $70,000 a year and have owned their home for 10 years or longer will be able to have their property taxes frozen in time.
“Our seniors have made our communities what they are today, and now it is our turn to rally to give back to them,” said Butler County Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., a primary sponsor of the bill. “This legislation will help Ohio seniors maintain financial stability and remain comfortable in their homes without the fear of losing them or questioning how they’ll pay for basic necessities.”
The bill comes as several area counties — including Butler, Greene and Montgomery — are bracing for massive taxable property value increases as values are reappraised amid a red hot housing market.
Hall introduced the bill, known as the 70/70 plan, with support of 25 representatives and alongside Rep. Dani Isaacsohn, D-Cincinnati, who said specific parts of his district have seen property values double in the past five years, with property taxes following.
“What I’ve heard over and over again from my constituents in these communities is that they’re struggling to keep up with the rising property taxes and they’re struggling to maintain their homes,” Issacsohn said. “It’s so important that we help older Ohioans maintain their homes because that’s where most of their wealth is.”
To that end, Isaacsohn said limiting displacement due to rising property taxes is especially integral for many Ohio families to pass down generational wealth. He said this dynamic of generational wealth is of particular import in his district, which largely slithers along Cincinnati’s Ohio River border.
“What our bill does is give older Ohioans predictability in their property taxes,” Isaacsohn said. “It says, we’re going to freeze your property taxes at a rate that you know, that you can expect, that you can plan for; it’s going to rise at the same rate as your fixed income rises, it’s going to be pegged. So seniors now know this is what you’re going to need to have to maintain their property taxes.”
Under the proposal, which has yet to be assigned a bill number, the state would pay to cover any loss to local governments from exemption eligible seniors from tax increases. The fiscal impact is not yet clear. The bill has also not yet received proponent or opposition testimony from interested parties.
Other property tax reform efforts
This is Hall’s third bill taking aim at property taxes this year. Already passed was the Homestead Exemption expansion, which gives more low-income Ohioans and disabled veterans property tax relief by shaving off tens of thousands of dollars of taxable property value. The bill was folded into the budget, which passed earlier this summer.
Still ongoing is Hall’s effort to change the way county auditors assess property values. His proposal, House Bill 187, would alter how county auditors assess property values in an effort to alleviate property valuation increases and the tax increases that would follow.
The bill had its 4th hearing Tuesday and was amended twice. The first amendment, supported by the Ohio Farm Bureau, takes farmland into consideration. In Ohio, farmland is taxed using a complicated formula known as the Current Agriculture Use Value, which values farmland based on its potential yield in a given tax year. Farmland that is able to produce more crop is taxed higher than farmland judged to have less potential.
According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, farmers are peering at drastic increases to their tax burden during this triennial cycle. Evan Callicoat, director of state policy at the bureau, told the House Ways and Means Committee that looping farmland in HB187 and requiring auditors to average out each property’s CAUV values, not actual taxes charged, over the past three years will help alleviate farmer’s tax burden.
“We have sustained higher crop prices in recent years, however our inputs costs and other factors have increased just as much, if not more, and are not as quick to come down to a point that would match where the market is currently,” Callicoat said.
The amended bill still sits in the Ways and Means Committee. Some county auditors have testified in support of the bill, including Nancy Nix of Butler County and George Kaitsa of Delaware County, but the Ohio County Auditors Association cautioned the state not to mess with the property value appraisal process. Matt Nolan, auditor for Warren County, testified against the bill on behalf of the County Auditors Association of Ohio in late July. Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith has also expressed misgivings.
Hall believes that if HB187 were to be signed into law before the November elections, it would go into effect before the expected valuation increases are actually set in stone, thus providing relief for property owners in local counties before taxes are due in February.
Hall told the Dayton Daily News that he hopes the bill will be voted out of committee next week. “We’re running out of time,” he said.