Tax bills increase despite declining property values

Tax notices were mailed out in Montgomery County on Monday, and many people are getting their first look at how much they owe as a result of the county’s comprehensive property revaluation.

Many property owners are contacting the county auditor and treasurer because they want to know why their tax bills increased when their property values declined, officials said.

Tax rates are rising because voters have approved new levies and falling property values are pushing up effective rates, said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.

A standard home valued at $100,000 in 2015 would owe $663.64 more in property taxes than a home with the same value in 2005, according to the Keith’s office.

Property owners can still challenge their assessed values with the Board of Revision. The tax-payment deadline is Feb. 20.

“People have heard all of the talk about values being down, and if they see any type of increase in their bill, we’ll probably hear from them,” Keith said. “We’ll try to give them an explanation of why their bills went up, but it’s complicated.”

The auditor conducts an extensive revaluation of all property in the county every six years. The updated values were mailed out to property owners last year.

But many property owners are now learning how much they owe in taxes. The information has been available on the auditor’s website for weeks, but tax bills have begun arriving in the mail.

Many people are calling the auditor and treasurer because they question why their tax bills increased when their values have slumped. About 170,000 properties in the county lost value last year, while about 60,000 properties increased in value.

Overall, the average tax bill in Montgomery County has declined by about $34 from $2,411 last year to $2,377 this year.

But the average effective tax rate for residential property in the county increased 3 mills between 2014 and 2015, the auditor said.

Seven out of eight levies seeking new money that appeared on last year’s ballot passed, which results in higher property taxes for impacted areas, Keith said.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the Human Services Levy measure, which was a countywide levy renewal that contains a 1 mill increase.

In the last five years, the average effective rate in the county increased 11.8 mills, while the average voted millage increased 8.1 mills, the auditor said.

“The impact on the new levies, in some cases, will offset any declines in value,” Keith said.

Treasurer Carolyn Rice said her office is willing to work with property owners to get them on a payment plan so they can avoid delinquency.

Rice said most people who call her office just want a clear explanation of their tax bills.

“There is the perception that if their value goes down, that automatically means their tax bill goes down,” Rice said. “But it depends on where they live, what’s happening in their area and whether any levies have passed.”

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