By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
January tax bills - never a welcome post-Christmas gift - will contain something a little extra for Hamilton County homeowners this year: property-value increases from 2 percent to 48 percent across Cincinnati and in the county.
It's time for the triennial property revaluation for all homes in Hamilton County, and according to numbers released Thursday by Auditor Dusty Rhodes, those who own homes downtown, in California and in Norwood are seeing some of the biggest jumps.
Perennial East Side favorites such as Hyde Park, Mount Lookout and Oakley were top gainers, too, while College Hill, North Fairmount and South Cumminsville posted the lowest overall property-value increases.
Alfred O'Connor, a Norwood resident for more than four decades, blames the Rookwood shopping complex for overall increases of 18.17 percent in the value of residential property there.
"I don't think it's fair to anybody in the city," said Mr. O'Connor, a retiree on a fixed income.
Downtown Cincinnati residences gained the most value between 1999 and 2002, with an aggregate increase of 48.6 percent, according to the auditor.
Kathy Schwab, residential development adviser for Downtown Cincinnati Inc., said her group has to study the numbers before theorizing on the reason for the leap and what it means for efforts to rejuvenate downtown.
Ms. Schwab, a North Avondale resident, got a notice from Mr. Rhodes this month herself. Her community chalked up a 17.49 percent overall increase.
"I'm not surprised," she said, "because it was undervalued for a long time."
The county's 2002 valuation, based on neighborhood sales data, is an update of 1999's valuation, which included physically viewing each property.
The aim is to set a value that's 94 percent to 97 percent of market value, Mr. Rhodes said.
Different homes in the same neighborhood may increase at different rates, he stressed. Values can be appealed to the Board of Revision, but he said the homeowner could actually see a further increase if the auditor's valuation was lower than a recent sale price.
He does have one bit of good news for owners: Tax bills will not rise at the same rate as property values because the millage collected on older levies falls as property values increase.
However, new levies - such as one Cincinnati Public Schools is considering seeking in May - would be based on the new values.
"The big reason taxes go up is because people pass levies," Mr. Rhodes said.
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