Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Property values up 15 percent

New tax bills to be mailed in January

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        How much is Hamilton County worth? About $14 billion, give or take a few hundred million.

        The county's property tax values were confirmed Tuesday by County Auditor Dusty Rhodes. The values for residen tial, industrial, commercial and agricultural lands were sent to Columbus, where the Ohio tax commissioner will certify them.

        Once the state has signed off on the values, Mr. Rhodes' office will begin mailing postcards to each of the county's 340,000 homes, businesses and farms to inform them of their value.

        Land value in Hamilton County is about 15 percent higher than 1996, when the last reappraisal was done.

        But that won't translate into more money for schools, elderly people, mentally disabled peo ple or any other program paid for by special tax levies.

        That's because those levies were passed by voters to raise a specific amount of money during the lifetime of the tax. So when higher property values come in, the millage rate of the taxes is reduced.

        Mr. Rhodes said property reappraisals — which happen countywide every six years and on a smaller scale every third year — are not meant to increase taxes. Nor will a 15 percent increase in county land value mean a 15 percent in crease in an individual property owner's tax bill, he said.

        Rather, the reappraisals simply ensure a fair valuation on property so everyone pays his or her fair share of tax. Individual property tax bills are calculated by a complex formula that takes into account surrounding properties in the neighborhood.

        “The reappraisals are not a way to get more tax money out of people, it's simply a way to rebalance the values,” Mr. Rhodes said.

        There is more than $2 billion in property exempt from paying tax. The biggest chunks of that pie go to businesses that have received tax abatements ($640 million) and charitable properties ($327 million).

        County Commissioner John Dowlin said granting tax abatements is a wise investment in the community.

        “These are corporations that have said if they don't get tax relief, they may move somewhere else,” Mr. Dowlin said. “It's a game of chicken we play with them.

        “But from my standpoint, unless there is a national man date that says no one may grant tax abatements, we've got to play the game.”

        County Treasurer Robert Goering said the 15 percent increase owes a lot to the booming economy. “This is simply a reflection of what we see in the marketplace,” Mr. Goering said.

        Tax bills will be mailed the first of the year. Any property owner who thinks his property has been overvalued can file a protest with the county Board of Revision.


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