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Published: Friday, 7/27/2012

Toledo expected to lose $1.9M in property tax

Number represents a drop of nearly 15 percent

Anita Lopez, Lucas County auditor, declined to provide estimates on the impact to other entities, such as school districts. Anita Lopez, Lucas County auditor, declined to provide estimates on the impact to other entities, such as school districts.

The city of Toledo can expect to lose nearly $2 million in property tax revenue next year, the result of a countywide revaluation of each business and home's taxable value that the Lucas County auditor's office estimated as the biggest decline in about 30 years.

County Auditor Anita Lopez broke the news to city councilmen Thursday afternoon during a finance committee hearing to discuss tax collections. Property values across the city of Toledo are down nearly 14 percent following the auditor's most recent assessment, which are estimated to lower the city tax revenues by $1.9 million in 2013. That represents a drop of nearly 15 percent in property tax collection for the city, although the final numbers won't be confirmed until later in the year.

Ms. Lopez declined to provide estimates on the impact to other entities in the county that receive property taxes, including school districts. She said her office is discussing those numbers with each institution before releasing the information to the public.

State law requires county auditors to revalue all real property every six years. The most recent valuations, which are being mailed out to property owners this month, are based on physical inspections of individual parcels and sales information for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Those years correspond with an unprecedented decline in the U.S. housing market and the worst recession since the Great Depression.

"Clearly we knew this was one of the worst times in our history in our county, and clearly it shows that in these numbers," Ms. Lopez indicated Thursday.

Residential properties in the city declined the most overall, averaging an 18.5 percent drop in value. Commercial and industrial properties lost approximately 3.4 percent of their appraised value under the auditor's assessment.

The foreclosure crisis played into the value decline. Although data on foreclosed property sales was not included in the auditor's value calculations, post-foreclosure sales were. Those sales represent foreclosed properties bought by investors that were then resold on the market at a depressed price.

Even so, not all properties in the county suffered a decline. Ms. Lopez said about 18,000 parcels increased in value under the assessment. She did not have information on where those properties are.

The revaluations also do not take into account selling prices in 2012, which have been on the uptick. That means people looking to sell a home may still be able to put their property on the market at rates above the value assessed by the auditor's office.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, who is also a Realtor, said sellers will usually look at the last six months of sales data to come up with an asking price. However, buyers are likely to take into account the county's assessed value of a property when making an offer, a factor that could keep selling prices low, he said.

"The reality is whoever's going to buy your house is probably going to look at [the revaluation]," he said.

Ms. Lopez urged property owners who want to challenge their revaluations to contact the auditor's office at 419-213-4406 before Oct. 1.

Her office will also be holding information sessions to answer citizen's questions and concerns in neighborhoods across the city in the coming weeks, she said. The county must submit its revaluations to the state for approval by the end of October.

The exact amount of individual property tax bills won't become clear until after the November election. If all of the levies on the ballot pass, people could end up with lower property values but a higher tax bill, a situation Ms. Lopez called a "perfect storm."

City of Toledo voters will be confronted with seven levy requests in November. "If they all pass then most likely there will be no savings to the citizens," Ms. Lopez said.

Toledo officials said they were not surprised by the revaluation news. Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the Bell administration had been expecting a decline in property tax revenue for next year and has budgeted accordingly. Property taxes are also a relatively small source of revenue for the city, officials said.

Nevertheless, the financial hit adds to the anticipated loss of about $3.1 million from Gov. John Kasich's elimination of estate taxes next year, and a nearly $9 million loss in local government funds from the state.

"2013 is going to be a pretty tough year," Clarence Coleman, commissioner of taxation and treasury, told council.

Still, Mr. Herwat said there is no need to panic. Income tax revenues are up over last year by about 4.3 percent or $2.8 million. The city is also receiving tax revenue from a new source: the Hollywood Casino.

"We are not anticipating any cuts in services or layoffs as a result of this [property tax] change," Mr. Herwat said. "There's a potential we could grow our way out of this problem."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.

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