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Maumee, Oregon schools drop property value challenges

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Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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Maumee City Schools and Oregon City Schools have joined other Lucas County districts and backed off from contesting home values to try to boost tax revenue.

Both districts had filed complaints with the Lucas County Board of Revision against properties that sold in 2016 for more than their auditor’s-office valuations. It has been standard practice for public school districts in the county to contest property values — officials say it ensures all homeowners are paying their fair share of property taxes — but county Auditor Anita Lopez asked that all districts hold off until her office revalues properties county-wide in 2018.

Sylvania Schools was the first to drop its complaints this year, after push-back from Ms. Lopez and vocal opposition from area property owners who said the practice unfairly targeted new home buyers. Springfield Schools followed suit after residents there also protested, and Toledo Public Schools dropped its complaints soon after.

The decisions by Maumee and Oregon school officials make Anthony Wayne Schools the lone local district where officials are still debating whether to drop their complaints with the Lucas County Board of Revision.

Washington Local Schools only challenges commercial property values, and Ottawa Hills does not challenge any.

But no school district has said it will stop the practice altogether. Oregon Schools Treasurer Jane Fruth said the process is on hold until 2018, when she hopes properties will be assigned values closer to their sale prices. The district dropped challenges against 11 properties for 2016, and all sold for $100,000 or more above their current valuations. 

“It’s about fairness to our taxpayers, and the hope is the reappraisal will make the necessary adjustments,” she said.

Maumee’s school board decided to drop complaints involving 21 homes, and the consensus at a recent board meeting was to play the coming years by ear.

“I don’t want to make a long-term decision,” board President Stephanie Piechowiak said during a Nov. 6 meeting. “I would prefer as a board to only release the 21 appeals and then go from there.”

Anthony Wayne’s administration and school board haven’t yet reached a consensus, though Treasurer Kerri Johnson said they hope to have one soon.

Most districts contest the values of homes that sold for $50,000 or more than their auditor’s valuations, but Oregon and Anthony Wayne only contest properties that sell for $100,000 or more in excess.

Anthony Wayne challenged 44 properties in 2016, with 19 of those homeowners countering the district’s complaints.

“We’ve never done it to make money on the deal,” Ms. Johnson said. “We do it to be fair to our taxpayers.”

She cited two examples that show how disproportionate sales prices in the Anthony Wayne district are compared to tax-roll valuations. One home valued at $375,700 sold for $650,000, and another valued at $382,200 sold for $800,000, she said.

“We’re trying to give the auditor a chance and have the revaluation correct the problem,” Ms. Johnson said.

Ms. Lopez was out of the office Thursday and Friday and could not be reached for comment, but she has called for her office and school districts to band together to put pressure on the Ohio General Assembly to reform school funding and move away from a property tax-based model.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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