2 Butler County districts considering moves as property values could rise 20%

With Butler County property values increasing as much as 20%, two local school districts are considering taking advantage of the hike for school improvements.

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds is fighting the state over a mandated 20% value hike in the county. He believes property values have only increased 13%.

The state tax commissioner’s office rejected his first set of reappraisal numbers, so he sent a new proposal with a 14% increase to the state last week. He is waiting on a response.

Both Hamilton City Schools and Ross Local Schools will hold public hearings on Oct. 15 to discuss possibly moving inside millage from the general fund to permanent improvement funds to take advantage of that coming increase. Hamilton Treasurer Robert Hancock told the Journal-News officials want to move 1.27-mills to the permanent improvement fund, which equates to $1.48 million. The move would cost the taxpayers about $27 a year on a $100,000 home if values go up 20%.

Hancock said if values go up 15%, the general fund will recoup $870,000 due to reappraisal.

Hancock said the district moved funds like this in 2001.

“It’s been very good for the district, it provides a revenue stream for permanent improvements,” Hamilton said. “... It’s going to be buses, it’s going to be any kind of maintenance vehicles we need, technology needs are huge and obviously we’ve got all this new infrastructure.”

Ross Schools Treasurer John Kinsel said the increase in taxes for a $100,000 home would be around $61 annually in their district. The move would generate about $825,000 for capital improvement, and the general fund would not change because of the increased values.

“It would be used for repairs and maintenance of the facilities and that will help us keep up with the repairs and maintenance that is needed and it would run the gamut of roof replacements, boilers, chillers, what have you,” Kinsel said. “It is much needed and it is absolutely necessary.”

“The Ohio Constitution itself requires real property to be valued at its true value in money for the purpose of taxation. Ohio statutory law further charges the tax commissioner with the duty to ensure that standard is met,” said Gary Gudmundson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation. “Deviating from that standard would require extensive changes to the law, likely including a Constitutional amendment.”

If McClain’s office holds to the 20% mandate, Reynolds will appeal to the state board of tax appeals. He has asked Ohio Rep. George Lang for a legislative answer to the issue, or he can sue if the change from a 20% mandate isn’t approved.

“We just don’t know what all our options are because we’ve never been in a situation where the state is so rigid and changing the guidelines on how we value properties,” Reynolds said. “We normally are looking at the past 36 months and this time around the state wants to just focus on one strong year of sales."

Lang said he is looking into the matter.

“Unfortunately the legislature is kind of shut down right now,” Lang said. “I assume there is a legislative fix but I don’t think we’ll have anything in place in the near future, it’s going to take a while. I think more authority should be driven down to the local level on that, let’s hold the auditor accountable not the tax commissioner up in Columbus.”

Both a lawsuit and legislative action would take a very long time. Reynolds said if he appeals the issue the values would be set at his recommended increases while that process is pending.

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