A county-hired firm has started visiting the 80,000 parcels of property in Ashtabula County for the state-mandated revaluation process.

The county auditor’s office contracted with Youngstown-based Integrity Appraisal Services, Inc. for $1.5 million under former auditor Roger Corlett to visit and appraise all parcels, according to current county auditor David Thomas, who continued the contract. Thomas said the amount roughly calculates to a $10 to $12 per parcel appraisal.

Every six years in Ohio counties are required by the state to perform a revaluation of every property, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. Ashtabula County is one of 13 counties in 2020 undertaking a revaluation.

Gary Gudmundson, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said every three years property values are adjusted using computer software involving a process of looking at property sales and making adjustments. Every six years an all-out revaluation and physical appraisal occurs, he said.

“Every six years there is a full-blown, get out into the community and look at every standing property to appraise it,” Gudmundson said. “They are obligated every six years to eyeball every property. Every third year there is essentially a computer update that’s a lot less involved.”

Integrity appraisers started their work in Andover, Thomas said. They won’t generally walk the property unless they see a structure on the property which they have questions about, Thomas said, and in such an instance they will knock and ask to speak to the property owner.

“That doesn’t happen very often because we usually have updated information,” Thomas said.

Doug Constance, project manager for Integrity Appraisal Service, Inc., said they are contracted by the county to visually appraise the outside of the property from the road. If they notice discrepancies, such as an addition or new garage, they will stop and get out, identify themselves and “correct the data.”

Constance said they base valuations on market value — what a property could expect to transfer for on the open market. Many factors go into that determination, including location, school district, amenities and the property itself such as size and conditions of the buildings and sites.

Constance said some people will see an increase, others will see a decrease and others will see no change at all.

Values are tied to property taxes, Thomas said, but there is more to the equation than simply a rise in values resulting in a rise in taxes. For example, how much tax is collected varies by community depending on what levies exist on the ballot and when those levies were first passed.

Levies can also only generate a specific amount of money, Thomas said, and they must continue to collect the same amount of money after a revaluation is complete. This means that when one property value goes down, and a property owner pays less tax toward a particular levy, then the shortfall is made up elsewhere on a property which saw its value rise.

“The taxes collected for the district remain the same but its all a proportion to the individual property owner and how their values relate to the rest of the district,” Thomas said.

How much a levy generates remains the same unless the entity which placed a levy on the ballot, like a school or police department, decides to pursue a replacement levy to bring the amount it generates up to current property values. Thomas said there are some 1-mill levies in the county that were first passed 40 years ago which actually only collect around point one mills.

How much tax a homeowner pays can also differ depending on the community they live in, what levies that community has and what the property values are in those individual communities.

“We are looking at clearer ways to present all of this on our website,” Thomas said. “We also encourage people to call our office so we can explain to them all the different levies that are on their tax bill.”

Thomas said the county revaluation doesn’t need to be complete until next year and he expects the work of appraisers to continue well into the summer or fall. Once preliminary data is available to his office, Thomas said he plans to hold informal conversations with home and business owners to let them know what their new property value could be and to answer any questions they may have.

It’s not possible to say what parts of the county may see a rise or fall in property values until data is available, Thomas said. However, in general he expects to see values rise on the basis that it is currently a “seller’s market” in some parts of the county where homes are selling quick.

The state also mandates what percentage of value change the county and communities in it should be within, Thomas said. When all is said and done, property owners have the right to question their value and pursue a case through the Board of Revisions, Thomas said.

Thomas acknowledged that during his campaign he said he would work to help people “keep their hard-earned dollars.” He stands by that even if someone’s property value theoretically rises and they wind up paying more, and said that he will work to provide everyone with information about ways they may be able to better understand the tax process.

As one example Thomas said he has already been able to help several senior citizens apply for state tax programs that have saved them money.

“We don’t want any surprises for folks when they get their tax bill in 2021,” he said.

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