Cuyahoga County Department of Appraisals updates information on 2021 property taxes

Cuyahoga County Department of Appraisals updates information on 2021 property taxes

by Bruce Checefsky

(Plain Press, December 2021)                 Michael Chambers, Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer, admits most people fail to understand how property taxes work. At the November Lincoln Heights Block Club meeting at the Tremont Taphouse, he talked about an update on 2021 property taxes.

     Chambers went through the Triennial Update process, detailing what people should know about their property taxes. He said that the Ohio tax appraisal is on a six-year plan. Three years ago, county appraisers reviewed over 480,000 parcels in Cuyahoga County in a mass appraisal. With the mass appraisal process, county appraisers do not enter homes, unlike a bank appraisal, which considers fixtures, build-out, and appliances. County appraisers make an assessment based on comparable properties in the neighborhood.

     In the three years since the last mass appraisal, municipalities provided the Cuyahoga County Department of Appraisals with building permits issued during that period. Chambers tracked property sales. Sales data influenced State of Ohio officials to mandate a double-digit increase in taxes across the county. 

     “I do not enjoy the appraisal process, but it is my job,” Chambers said to about twenty Tremont residents inside the Tremont Taphouse on Scranton Avenue. Many were older adults living on fixed incomes. 

     “The 2021 Triennial Update is based solely on sales data. From January 2018 through December 2020, home sales have been out of control in the county,” he explained. “Houses are being sold within hours of listing, without inspection, and often as cash deals.” 

     America’s housing market rose by 24.8 percent since March 2020. Median home prices in medium-size metropolitan areas like Boise, Idaho, for example, increased 46 percent. In Phoenix, the housing market rose 36 percent, and in Austin, it was 35 percent; Sacramento, 28 percent. Cleveland home prices were up 15.9 percent in July 2021 over July 2020. As a result, state officials mandated Chambers to raise Cuyahoga County tax rates by 16%. When the county did their calculations, they came up with the same number. As a result, home values increased. An increase in property values does not always equate with a proportional rise in property taxes, making the process more confusing.  

     “A property that increased in value from $150,000 to $180,000, or about a thirty percent, will likely go up only 4.2 percent in taxes,” said Chambers.

     Assessments are city-by-city and neighborhood-by-neighborhood. A typical house might have gold faucets, he pointed out, or a crack in the foundation. County assessors will not include that information in the property valuation. 

     Statewide, Cuyahoga County ranked second as the highest average residential property tax rate. Within the City of Cleveland, property owners can expect a 23% increase in residential property values. In Westlake and Bratenahl, home values will increase 12%, and Maple Heights, 29%. The outer ring suburbs of Hunting Valley and Chagrin Falls have zero increase. While the assessed value of the property is the same, property owners will still pay higher taxes.

     Property tax revenue maintains public streets and roadways and pays for routine maintenance making the necessary streetlight and traffic light repairs within the township or city limits. The highest percentage of property taxes goes to the public schools. In Cleveland, the schools receive 56.79% of the property taxes collected; the City of Cleveland receives13.2%; Cuyahoga County receives 19.35%; the Cleveland Public Library receives 8.08% and the Cleveland Metroparks receive 2.58%.

     Chambers sees the trend of property tax increases only going upward from here. With home flippers, real estate investors buy a home in its original condition at as low a price as possible, renovate, and then quickly sell to a new buyer at a profit. The impact on property valuation and increased taxes within some neighborhoods are skyrocketing. Tax abatement programs only add to the problem, he said. In Tremont alone, over 10% of all parcels are tax abated.

     “The building of new expensive homes, many with tax abatement, goes into the data to determine property valuation, which eventually impacts property taxes. There were 378 home sales in Tremont between January 2018 and December 2020. The average sale was $237,000.”

     Once property owners receive their assessments from the county and disagree with the valuation, they can appeal the decision to the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision. They should ask a few questions before getting involved in a lengthy and time-consuming process, Chambers said, adding that an appeal to the Board of Revisions does not challenge how much you owe for property taxes. You could have a higher valuation resulting in more taxes.

     “If you were to sell your house today, what would be the sale price? If the market value matches the county-appraised value, the Board of Revisions will not change its mind,” he said.

     Appeals to the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision should be submitted between January 1 and March 31, 2022, by completing a DTE-1 Form found on the county website:

     The Board of Revision will schedule a hearing to review your case within six to twelve months. Seniors and Spanish-speaking residents should contact Yvonne Conwell, County Council Representative for District 7, for assistance at 216-618-2017.

     Dharma Valentin, Community & Equity Organizer at Tremont West Development Corporation, offered to assist anyone with an appeal by helping them to apply. She will bring her laptop to the Block Club meetings from January to March 2022 to help fill out the proper forms. A request to lower valuation by more than $50,000 will automatically alert the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. A school board attorney will be present at your hearing to dispute your case. Get a quote for repairs from a contractor and take pictures. Appeals should have good evidence, Chambers cautioned, and avoid using West Park to compare with home prices in Tremont.

     As he was wrapping up his presentation for the night, apologizing for monopolizing the meeting, Chambers added, “We have been asked for years to raise the value of homes on the Cleveland inner city. These people cannot get a home equity loan to fix their windows. They are glad we raised property valuations.” 

     Roger Hillsok, a resident of Tremont along Scranton Road, was shaking his head in disbelief.  He has been renovating a property purchased from his parents. He worries that the improvements to his property will increase the taxes for his neighbors.

     “There is a lot of things out of our control,” he said. “I’m adding to the gentrification of the neighborhood. I do not want my taxes to go up. I do not want my neighbor’s taxes to go up except that I am unable to prevent that from happening.”

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