BEDFORD, Ohio — An overflow crowd packed a room inside the Bedford Public Library on Tuesday night for the first of eleven community meetings to discuss Cuyahoga County's recent triennial property tax appraisals, which residents have been receiving in the mail.
"Almost 25-percent [increase]," said one Bedford homeowner, who didn't want to give his name. "I'm like, you want to charge me more than what my bank thinks that damn house is worth," he exclaimed.
It's the result of bad timing and a hot housing market. Cuyahoga County's once-every-three-years appraisals happened to coincide with the pandemic-influenced real estate boom.
"I feel like they're using the inflated prices of houses to justify these higher property valuations," said one homeowner, who didn't want to be identified.
Cuyahoga County saw an average 16% jump in home values, with some areas in Cleveland surging 23%. Longtime residents -- especially seniors -- face the potential of having to sell and move out.
"The message we want to get out, is -- don't panic," said Lisa Rocco, Director of Operations for the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office. Rocco said that just because your home value jumped by a percentage, doesn't mean that your property taxes will increase by the same percentage. "I know they see sticker shock, but that doesn't necessarily mean that your taxes will go up by that amount," Rocco said.
Rocco urged residents to use the Fiscal Office's online property tax calculator to get an estimate of your tax burden. You can find it here.
Property taxes are calculated based on two factors: The value of the property, as determined by home sales in that neighborhood, and the tax rate levied in a specific community. In 1976, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 920, with the purpose of keeping inflation from increasing voted taxes, by freezing property taxes collected for schools and libraries at the amount collected in the first year of that levy for the duration of the levy.
Homeowners can file an appeal with the county's Board of Revision, starting in January. But appeals must include evidence as to why the appraisal is incorrect, for example, if the homeowner recently bought the property for less than the appraised value.
The threat of increased taxes couldn't come at a worse time, as many are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's not fair to the citizens. So they need to find another way of evaluating property values," said one homeowner.
To view how much home values increased in your community, you can find the county's triennial impact maps here.
The schedule for the remaining 10 community informational meetings can be found here.
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