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Published: Sunday, 4/1/2001

Owners get `sticker shock' from house revaluations

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Richard Bachar developed a case of “sticker shock'' when he opened a letter and discovered that the value of his suburban Sylvania Township home had increased 80 percent, to $160,000.

“I don't mind paying taxes,'' said Mr. Bachar, 52, a construction company estimator. “But what's fair is fair. I mean, it was a real case of sticker shock. It was ridiculous.''

After he complained, the Lucas County auditor's office lowered the value of his home to $137,000. But that's still not low enough. So Mr. Bachar may ask for a hearing before Lucas County's board of revision.

And he's not alone.

As of Friday the auditor's office had received about 700 requests for a hearing before the board from people who disagree with their new property valuation.

Property owners have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to file for a hearing. The board is made up of Auditor Larry Kaczala, Treasurer Ray Kest, and county commissioners President Sandy Isenberg.

Hearings probably will begin in late April and continue until all cases have been heard.

Mr. Kaczala said 700 requests for a hearing isn't bad, considering that 200,000 parcels were revalued.

But he knew the complaints were coming.

A revaluation of property values for tax purposes, especially after six years of increasing real estate prices, was bound to make the county auditor unpopular with some property owners.

Maybe not as unpopular as in 1937, when, according to a story in The Blade, “mass demonstrations were held and demands were voiced that the auditor be hanged.''

“Let's put it this way: I'm not real happy about it,'' Mr. Bachar said. “There's no way I could get $137,000 for my house.''

After the revaluation six years ago, the auditor's office had requests for about 1,050 hearings. It still could approach that figure by tomorrow's deadline.

The primary factors considered by appraisers are location and the sale price of comparable houses in the neighborhood, Mr. Kaczala said.

In the past, some people who asked for a board hearing have complained that their taxes are too high, he said.

“We really don't deal with that. We deal with the valuation of the property. It's only one component of taxes,” Mr. Kaczala said.

He noted that this revaluation coincided with the passage of a number of tax issues, which increased overall real estate taxes and may have contributed to the number of complaints from the public.

In Toledo, if a homeowner persuades the board to reduce a valuation from $100,000 to $90,000, the annual tax bill would be reduced by $164 from $1,604 to $1,440.

The auditor's office has adjusted valuations on properties under what are known as informal complaints. That's what happened with Mr. Bachar. After his complaint, an appraiser from the auditor's office visited his house twice, leading to the reduction.

Appraisers have dealt with about 4,300 inquiries and granted reductions for 2,827 property owners. No changes were ordered in about 1,404 - and increases were applied to 77 properties.

Most informal complaint changes occur because the data used to establish the revaluation are wrong, said Jerry German, director of the auditor office's real estate division.



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