Thursday, May 25, 2017
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Fair appeals for fair taxes

Some Sylvania property owners, who approved a 5.7-mill levy last November, are not happy to find that their school district is appealing the assessment value of their homes. They have a point — but it is more about a fair process than valuation.

Click here to read more Blade editorials | RELATED STORY: Sylvania schools contesting more home values

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Penny O’Brien, 72, was shocked her taxes for the Sylvania condo she bought in this building could be hiked to $9,950. Sylvania Schools has contested the property values of more than 200 homes, including hers.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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It is in everyone’s interest that the tax burden be fair. That means everyone should be paying taxes based on an accurate assessment value. An appeals system makes this more likely.

This is especially true because Lucas County only reviews assessments every three years and revalues every parcel every six years. The next revaluation year is 2018.

In years when home values are rising, as they are now, taxing bodies such as school districts are more likely to appeal. In years when values are decreasing, such as after the 2008 financial crisis, it is more likely homeowners would want to appeal.

The question is whether homeowners are on an equal footing with taxing bodies in the appeals process. They are not.

School districts have more resources and experience at going through the system and making a case to the county board of revision.

Homeowners are less likely to have this experience, so if Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, who criticized districts filing appeals, is concerned about fairness, she should continue working to level the playing field. Ms. Lopez has helped property owners in the past by streamlining the appeals process and making Lucas County the first in Ohio to allow online appeals filings.

If there are other barriers, the county should remove them so homeowners stand as good a chance as the taxing body of winning.

Some Ohio lawmakers want to level the playing field for property owners who end up at the next step in the process — a court appeal. An amendment in the proposed Ohio budget headed for the state Senate would require taxing bodies to pay the legal fees for property owners if the taxing body loses an appeal at this level. That’s a good idea. Making an appeals process accessible and impartial for property owners is the way to make the property tax system equitable, and credible, for everyone.

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