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Butler County residents flood officials with calls after getting higher tax bills

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Posted at 8:48 AM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 08:48:22-05

Butler County taxpayers got sticker shock when they opened their tax bills this week and flooded the auditor’s and treasurer’s offices with thousands of calls, according to the Journal-News.

Treasurer Nancy Nix said her staff have answered more than 2,000 calls this week from taxpayers wondering why their bills jumped so high in some areas, and others questioning the new format of the bills, which show less customized information. The number of calls in three days after bills were mailed jumped from 669 last year to 1,580 this year.

“I think the overwhelming amount of calls are about the values and taxes going up and trying to understand why there is such a difference,” Nix said.

County Auditor Roger Reynolds’ office sets the values, and his Chief Deputy Dawn Mills said it received 905 calls between Tuesday and Thursday, an average of about 301 per day, compared to an average of 153 last year.

Reynolds was required by law to reassess all properties countywide last year. The average value increase is 14.5%, but increases vary by neighborhood according to recent sales data. The state ordered an average 20% increase, and Reynolds is battling that much of an increase on appeal.

Property in all counties is reappraised every six years, and property values are updated every third year. Butler County was among 13 Ohio counties required to reappraise last year.

Not everyone’s taxes increased because the values were adjusted, the biggest impact is where new levies were passed. Hamilton voters approved a new 3.9-mill road levy that will cost roughly $136 for a $100,000 home. St. Clair Twp. won an additional 3.5-mill continuing operating levy that will cost $103 a year for the owner of an average home there. West Chester Twp. voters approved two new 2-mill levies for police and fire. The owner of a $200,000 home will pay a little less than the estimate of $336.

“A lot of the callers were from Olde West Chester, the older population that purchased their homes 40 years ago, there are people crying saying they’re getting priced out of their homes, (asking) how are they going to pay,” Nix said.

A few Hamilton residents told the Journal-News their bills went up more than $800.

Lemon Twp. saw the largest value hike by far at 32.1% and Middletown went up around 25%. Reynolds faced a similar dilemma during the Great Recession. He was forced to reappraise properties in 2008. He was able to go back in 2009 and adjust the numbers to more realistic levels. Middletown was one of the hardest areas and he readjusted accordingly, with this reappraisal he increased values to the current market.

Taxpayers are able to dispute the value increase by applying to the Board of Revision by March 31.

“I strongly encourage anyone that feels that they can’t sell their home for the value we have on it, then they need to apply to the Board of Revision and make their case,” Reynolds said. “I don’t want anyone’s value more than they think they can sell it for. There is no incentive on me to over-value someone’s property.”

Nix, Reynolds and a representative from the county commissioners’ office sit on the board. Mills said she had received 49 applications as of Friday but she expects that number to grow since the bills were just mailed Monday. The last time values were readjusted three years ago they had 765 applications.

Reynolds said all that is really required is to fill out the application but taxpayers are welcome to include supporting documents, such as recent sales of comparable properties. He said while they visited all 165,000 properties during the reappraisal process, they didn’t go inside.

“There’s reasons why someone could be successful, because maybe the condition of their home isn’t as strong as we think it is,” Reynolds said. “Or maybe there’s some additional information that they can provide us that supports lowering the value. It’s not uncommon for us to make an adjustment.”

The applications can be found here.