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Government/Politics

Back to the drawing board for a bill to reform the property tax challenge process in Ohio

Generic tax bill
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Generic tax bill

The Ohio House rejected changes the Senate made to the bill

It's not often you get unanimous agreement from all of the members of the Ohio House. But that's exactly what happened Wednesday when the House unanimously rejected changes the Senate made to a bill that reforms the process for challenging property tax values.

Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township), the sponsor of the bill, said he had worked on it for years, trying hard to address problems with the current process for disputing property tax valuation. But he says the issue has gained more attention recently, drawing more voices to the debate. He says some of the changes the Senate made are good but he doesn't like all of them.

“I think it’s important that we get this right, that all of the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted and we take a very strong look at what is the best and fairest way to make sure these property valuation complaints are effective, legal and achieve the results that Ohioans expect,” Merrin says.

Ohio House Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township)
Ohio House of Representatives
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Ohio House of Representatives
Ohio House Rep. Derek Merrin (R- Monclova Township)

Changes to the bill through the legislative process

Since 1976, state law has allowed school districts to initiate property value challenges with their local board of revision when they think the value of a property is higher than the amount that has been assessed. So when owners of commercial properties challenge the assessed value of their properties, school districts can, and often do, get involved in the dispute to try to keep their tax revenues higher.

Originally, the House-passed version of this bill would have required local boards of education to give approval for each property value challenge that involves an attorney for their district. But the Senate’s changes went beyond that and would have made it harder for school districts to participate in challenges or get private settlements from property owners.

House members are not the only ones who are unhappy with the Senate's changes. Franklin County Auditor Mike Stinziano says the Senate's bill goes too far. Stinziano, a Democrat, says some of the changes skew the appraisal and revision process.

“And if that appraised value isn’t captured correctly, it has the consequence of other property owners having to make up that difference," Stinziano says.

Stinziano explains the goal should be to make sure everyone pays their fair share. And if that doesn't happen, he says those who are paying their taxes in full might end up paying higher property taxes.

With the House’s rejection, lawmakers from both chambers, including Merrin, will work on an agreement.

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