Butler County leaders protest potential 24% property value hike

Auditor’s office is in process of triennial update.

The Butler County commissioners plan to send a resolution to the state tax commissioner protesting the anticipated 24% property value hike for the triennial reassessment saying it’s “fuzzy math.”

The Journal-News reported last week that new county Auditor Nancy Nix is anticipating — based on early communications with the state — she will be forced to increase property values an average of 24%.

On Monday, Commissioner Don Dixon said he wants a resolution drafted to formally protest the estimated value hike he said is based on “fuzzy math.”

“I think it would be a worthy point to send a letter to the Ohio state tax commissioner referencing the proposed increase of almost 25% on real estate taxes, that is absolutely crazy ... ,” Dixon said adding “I’d like to see if we can get on the front end of that and send a letter that that’s not something that’s good for Butler County.”

Nix said they haven’t been ordered to increase values by that much yet, but based on what the state has sent so far, it appears that is what will be mandated for the county as whole. Her office is reevaluating the properties based on local sales information so they can ensure the numbers are fair within the county.

Real Estate Director Mike Stein said for the triennial reassessment, “we basically review by neighborhoods in the county, we use the sales data as we do for the annual review and the state will come back and calculate ratios and averages, and the first half of 2022 the ratios came back at a 24% increase.”

Commissioner T.C. Rogers agreed they should send the resolution. As a real estate professional, he said he doesn’t see the justification.

“I just don’t see the logic, based on my experience, I think our appraisals have been pretty accurate,” Rogers said. “I’m also aware of what individual neighborhoods in communities what their increases have been and that’s as much as beachfront in Florida, those kind of increases. Just show me your math that’s all, we’re logical.”

The commissioners were hoping Nix would join the resolution, but she told the Journal-News it is premature at this early juncture in the reappraisal process. She said “we don’t want to get crossways with the state, they obviously do hold our value increases in their hand.”

“We don’t have concrete numbers, so it would be premature to send a letter yet,” she said. “Plus the information we’re seeing shows the sales numbers are very high, and I believe the state, from their point of view, they can’t have county auditors artificially suppressing values. While we may differ from the state auditor on some of the methodology or some of the trends and the way they view them, at the end of the day the math is the math and the sales are the sales.”

Dixon told the Journal-News he’s going to send the missive with or without Nix, “you can’t wait for them to load the gun and pull the trigger before the bullet hits you and then they say oh here it is, by that time you get it, it’s too late, the bullet’s hit you, you’re dead and they’ve got their 25%.”

“I want it to be premature, I want them to know there’s going to be more of that coming ... ,” Dixon said. “I’ve been in this game way too long, you wait until they tell you it’s official it’s too fricking late. We’re going to give it a shot.”

Gary Gudmundson, communications director for the Ohio Department of Taxation said they have “not issued any sort of communication about Butler County’s property values” and they do not know where the 24% increase came from.

“The county is scheduled for its triennial update this year but the Department has not shared or formulated any pertinent recommendations or other related guidance with Butler or any of the other scheduled update counties,” he said.

Nix reiterated she hasn’t been ordered yet, but her staff is basing the information on regular reports they receive.

“They have not technically issued it, but from our experience over many years we know what to expect based on their publications to our office,” Nix said.

Property in all counties is reappraised every six years, and property values are updated every third year. The auditor’s office is in the process of the triennial update.

During the state-mandated 2020 reappraisal all 165,000 Butler County parcels were reassessed and the state ordered an average 20% increase. Former Auditor Roger Reynolds fought a historic battle with the tax commissioner over the mandated increase because he said the state’s methodology was flawed. He lost.

The state Board of Tax Appeals said the tax commissioner’s appraisal process is not only supported by state rules but “comports with standard appraisal practice and existing real property valuation law.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter agreed to sending the resolution.

“Why do we go to such lengths to accurately evaluate the property here with the whole team of experts and then the state says oh no you’re wrong, from a desk.” Carpenter asked.

Nix said, “it does seem like a duplication of efforts” but the state oversight is necessary.

“They have to keep everybody honest across the state,” Nix said. “We’re sending information to the state about everything all the time, so there’s always oversight, they’re auditing our finances, they’re looking at our values, they can’t have a rogue auditor keeping values at status quo when actually they’ve gone up 25%.”

Gudmundson said his department has an obligation to make sure values are correct.

“The Department has a mandatory duty under law to ensure that property is valued at market value and to order changes in value if it finds property has not been assessed at that value as required by both state constitutional and statutory law,” Gudmundson said.

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