School district treasurers are starting to receive notification from their respective county auditors of property valuation complaints that have been filed by property owners. These complaints could have a negative financial impact on your school district, and your district is entitled to participate in the process by filing counter-complaints within 30 days of receiving notice from the county auditor. Below is a brief explanation of the county body that hears the complaints and the process involved.
County Boards of Revision
Under O.R.C. 5715.01, a board exists in each county, known as the county board of revision (“BOR”) which hears complaints and revises assessments of real property for taxation purposes. The BOR is composed of the county treasurer, county auditor, and a member of the board of county commissioners selected by the board of county commissioners. O.R.C. 5715.02. The BOR is responsible for hearing and adjudicating complaints regarding the assessed valuation of real property within the county. The BOR’s objective is to ensure that all real property is fairly valued and that all taxpayers are guaranteed equal treatment. The BOR has the authority to increase or decrease property valuations.
Property Valuation Complaints
The basic process of adjudicating property valuation cases is as follows:
1. Parties are permitted to file complaints regarding the valuation of property (both commercial/industrial and residential property) with the BOR. The complaint filing period is between January 2 and March 31. R.C. 5715.19(A)(1).
-The complaint must be timely and the form must be filled out properly or risk being dismissed by the BOR. Generally, the complaint must be signed by the owner of the property or an attorney.
-The complaint must state the complainant’s opinion of value, the current taxable value, and the requested change in taxable value. Reviewing the complaints you receive can provide valuable insight into how much of a reduction in taxes the property owner is seeking. The complaint should state why the requested change is justified.
-Complaints can only be filed every 3 years, unless the reason for the valuation change is one of the following: 1) The property was sold in an arm’s length transaction; 2) A substantial improvement was added to the property; 3) The property lost value due to a casualty; 4) The property’s occupancy changed by at least 15%. R.C. 5715.19.
2. Each board of education (“BOE”) receives notice from its respective county auditor—usually directed to the treasurer of the district—of relevant valuation complaints (requested reductions of more than $17,500 in taxable value), at which point the Board of Education is permitted to file a counter-complaint within 30 days of receiving such notice.
-The BOE (typically the Treasurer and/or Superintendent) must determine which complaints to challenge. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis—some districts challenge both residential and commercial complaints, some only challenge commercial complaints, etc.
-Once the Treasurer receives notification of the complaints, they should be reviewed by counsel and determinations should be made concerning filing counter-complaints. It is important to timely file any counter-complaints within 30 days.
3. The BOR holds hearings to determine whether the value of a property should be increased or decreased. The BOR reserves the right to control the length of the hearings, but they typically schedule 15-30 minutes per hearing.
-The Complaintant (typically the property owner) has the burden of proof to justify their claimed property value and presents its evidence. Evidence may come in the form of owner’s testimony as to value, appraisals, etc.
-The BOR and BOE representatives (typically legal counsel) can ask questions. BOE legal counsel can also make legal arguments and legal objections regarding the filing of the complaint, the parties that are (or are not) present at the hearing, the sufficiency of the evidence, etc.
4. The BOR issues a valuation decision. Notice of the decision is provided to the property owner and BOE legal counsel.
5. Decisions of the BOR are appealable by either the BOE or property owner within 30 days of the date of the decision to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) or the Court of Common Pleas.
-To participate in an appeal (to even participate in settlement discussions), a BOE must have participated at the BOR level.
If you would like assistance in reviewing the complaints that have been filed in your District and making a determination as to whether it may be beneficial to challenge these complaints, please contact Jennifer Stiff Tomlin or Derek Haggerty at (614) 222-8686 or via their emails below.
This Legal Update is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If advice is required, please contact us at (614) 222-8686 or via email:
Julia A. Bauer Julia@sswlaw.com
Derek L. Haggerty (author) Derek@sswlaw.com
Julie C. Martin Julie@sswlaw.com
Jessica K. Philemond Jessica@sswlaw.com
Patrick J. Schmitz Pat@sswlaw.com
Gregory B. Scott Gregory@sswlaw.com
Donald C. Scriven Donald@sswlaw.com
Jennifer Stiff(author) Jennifer@sswlaw.com
James K. Stucko Jim@sswlaw.com
Derek L. Towster Dtowster@sswlaw.com