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Two Ohio bills want to help with historic taxable property hikes
 
By Celeste Baumgartner
Ohio Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Forty-one counties in Ohio are undergoing state-mandated reappraisals or updates this year. Many are experiencing historic taxable property value hikes; some are upward of 40 percent. The average Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) soil value is set to go up from $668 an acre to $1,443, or 116 percent, according to the Butler County auditor’s office.
Two pieces of legislation hope to address the issue. Both HB 187 and SB 153 would average property values over three years as compared to being valued only on the current year’s value, which can make a significant difference. The House bill is sponsored by State Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.), and Adam Bird (R-New Richmond). State Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) sponsored the Senate bill.
HB 187 has passed the House but has not moved in the Senate. Lang introduced SB 153 largely so his colleagues would be familiar with the issues. He wants to move HB 187 since the House has already passed it and has vowed to get it on the governor’s desk by Nov. 16.
“HB 187 and SB 153 are the same thing,” Lang said. “The bill will force the Department of Taxation to go back three years instead of just one year and take the three-year average. In Butler County, that will reduce residential increases from what was originally in the 42 percent range down into the 24 percent range. It would be much more manageable for residential property owners.”
Currently, the Department of Taxation can choose to go back one year or three years. “They have chosen to take the most punitive stance when it comes to the taxpayers. This bill would take that option away from the department,” Lang said.
“In the last budget we put a tax review committee together,” he explained. “I am going to be on that committee. There will be six Republicans and four Democrats from the House and Senate who work on this two-year committee. So, this (the House and Senate bills) gives us a three-year plan to stop the bleeding.”
In June, Butler County Auditor Nancy Nix testified in Columbus in support of HB 187. Butler County has been leading the charge to lower the property tax burden. However, the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio opposes the bills, she said.
Nix is not a spokesperson for the association but is on the tax committee. They view the situation as a tax problem and not an evaluation problem. They want to keep the process for appraisal and evaluation that has been in place for 80-plus years.
“The County Auditors’ Association’s stance was that the valuations are not the problem,” Nix said. “The valuations are what they are regardless of historic inflation. The problem is the taxes – all of the levies that have passed over the last 15 years since the state cut our local government funds. With historic inflation, everyone is upset about the values because it raises their taxes, but in reality, it is that so many levies have been passed. We are working with our lawmakers on HB 187 and SB 153. We are sort of in limbo, as we have been all summer long.
“These are historic inflationary times and our lawmakers were wanting the tax commissioners to realize that our real estate market is way out of whack and people can’t afford these increases,” Nix said. “But the auditors’ association had a sort of an informal vote and they were against changing the evaluation methods.”
About a quarter of the auditors in the state were in favor of it because it was short-term and because it would help taxpayers, Nix explained. The association has other remedies that don’t affect valuations, but instead focus on state tax credits or the 20 mill floor, which is the protection specifically related to school districts. The 20-mill floor is the reason schools will experience a windfall in revenue with the historic inflation. Many would like to see this changed, but the public school lobby would certainly fight any change.
Nix sees both sides of the equation, she said. But from the lawmaker’s point of view, having the three-year average is a short-term fix to alleviate some of the tax burden on the taxpayers.
“It has gotten a little bit personal because the lawmakers are trying to provide relief while the auditors look like they are stymieing those efforts,” Nix said. “But on the other hand, the auditors have systems in place that are not broken and that have always worked and they feel that the wrong side of the equation is being looked at.”
Ohio Farm Bureau has been encouraging its members to continue to reach out to their senators and let them know that this is something that they would like them to take up and hopefully get to the finish line, said Whittney Bowers, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of state policy and grassroots engagement.
“There are lots of different stakeholder groups and I think they are trying to listen to all of the different groups and weigh all of the concerns,” Bowers said.
The CAUV formula is a concern of farmers and it is very different from the residential formula, Bowers said. The value increases have occurred because of the sustained high crop prices over the last several years. But input costs have also been high.
“So, the input costs are high and even though the crop prices are high they are not balancing out,” Bowers explained. “Generally, you would hope that those would offset each other because the formula is designed to follow the farm economy; so even though we have high crop prices we have high input prices.”
Bowers also pointed out that even if one of the bills makes it through the House and Senate, Ohioans are still going to see an increase.
“We’re hoping that it softens that curve and makes it a little easier to digest but it is still going to increase,” she said.
10/30/2023