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Published: Thursday, 10/31/2013

PROPERTY TAXES

Bills to rise with loss of statewide rollbacks

Change increases cost of new, renewal levies

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Ottawa Hills voters head to the polls Tuesday, the matters they’ll decide include a 6.9-mill new operating levy for the village school district that will cost homeowners $241.50 per year for each $100,000 of their homes’ market value.

Those potential bills would be $30.19 less per $100,000 had Ohio’s state government not decided during the summer to cancel two statewide rollback provisions enacted during the 1970s, primarily to ease the blow from the then-new state income tax.

The state subsidies remain in place for any property taxes in effect before this election, but any new, increased, or replacement tax approved going forward will have to be collected fully at the local level.

The Ottawa Hills school tax is the largest on any Lucas County ballot, but effects of the rollback change are countywide as well as local.

A 1.8-mill levy for the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which includes replacement of two existing levies totaling 0.8 mill and a 1-mill increase, will cost property owners $7.88 more per $100,000 annually than it would have if the rollbacks were to stay in effect. Because it’s a replacement tax, taxpayers will lose their rollbacks even on the old 0.8 mill.

Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, a Democrat who states the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly and the Kasich administration should never have tinkered with the rollbacks in the first place, said state officials now are failing to publicize it.

She held two in a series of public workshops Wednesday — first at the Ottawa Hills village offices and later at the Springfield Township Hall — to explain the situation to taxpayers.

“I’m very disappointed with the lack of communication from the state on this,” she said during the lightly attended Ottawa Hills session.

Ms. Lopez plans to be at the Oregon Municipal Building at 1:30 p.m. Friday for discussion of the tax changes. A new 0.5-mill senior services levy on the Oregon ballot will cost $2.19 more per $100,000 in property value than it would have without the rollback freeze.

The first citizen to attend her Ottawa Hills session was Jim Bolinsack, who lives in a part of southwest Toledo that is in the Springfield Local Schools district. Springfield Local has a 2.9-mill continuing levy for operating expenses on the ballot that would cost the owners of $100,000 homes $101.50 in annual tax if approved — $12.69 more than it would if rollbacks applied to it.

Voters within Springfield Township have that levy to decide upon as well as a fire-levy renewal and increase, for which the rollback will cost a $100,000-home owner an additional $13.56 per year on 3.1 mills of the 4.4-mill total.

He said the rollback changes mean “the cards are stacked against the poor people.”

Other issues on the ballot Tuesday affected by the change are a new 4.9-mill operating levy in the Anthony Wayne district, which will cost $21.44 more per $100,000 in valuation than in the past; a 3.5-mill police levy in Waterville Township ($15.31); a 2-mill fire levy in Spencer Township ($8.75) that is on the ballot along with a 2-mill renewal that won’t be affected, and a half-mill addition to the renewal of a 1.5-mill fire levy in Swanton ($2.19).

The county auditor said she doubts the rollback freeze will significantly affect the vote on the various levies on Tuesday’s ballot, but she expects sticker shock for property owners in December when they get their tax bills for the first half of 2014.

“I don’t want people to be blind-sided,” Ms. Lopez said. “There are some people who are going to get their tax bills, and we’re going to be very busy in December.”

The auditor’s office also will have a booth Saturday at the Caregiver Expo at Parkway Plaza, 2592 Parkway Plaza, Maumee, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to explain the rollback changes as well as new eligibility criteria for the Homestead Exemption, under which qualified homeowners have been exempted from property tax on the first $25,000 in value of the homes in which they live.

Since 2007, anyone who was 65, a qualifying homeowner’s surviving spouse who was at least 59 when the spouse died, or certified as permanently and totally disabled was qualified for the Homestead Exemption.

But anyone who turns 65 after Dec. 31, or was not certified as disabled by last Jan. 1, and did not own a home as of Jan. 1, will only qualify with income of $30,500 or less.

Those already qualified are grandfathered for life, so Ms. Lopez said it is vital for eligible homeowners to claim their exemption. Late applications for 2013 eligibility will be accepted through June 2, she said.

“I registered somebody who is 80 years old this year,” the auditor said. “She came to one of my clinics and signed up.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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