June 7, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOGAN COUNTY AUDITOR RESIGNS IN PART DUE TO GROWING SYSTEMIC INEQUITY OF VALUATION OF REAL PROPERTY
Logan County Auditor Michael E. Yoder has announced his plan to resign from office effective June 30, 2018. Mr. Yoder based his decision in part on the growing systemic inequity in the treatment of each real property taxpayer, making it increasingly difficult to perform his statutory duties as assessor. A recent decision of the Ohio Supreme Court, in the case of Notestine Manor v. Logan County Board of Revision, (picture above) confirmed a reduction in the value on the Notestine Manor property, a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) project, to $75,000 for tax year 2013 from the Auditor’s value of $811,120, necessitating a refund of taxes which mounted into tens of thousands of dollars, most of which came from the Bellefontaine City School District.
One of the primary responsibilities of a county auditor is that of chief assessor. In that role, the auditor is responsible for establishing a taxable value for every parcel of real property in the county; this value is used to determine the amount of taxes levied against the parcel. It is therefore of the utmost importance that this value be “fair and equitable” for every parcel. This is the guiding principle of assessors and tax administrators across the country. Due to the interconnected nature of Ohio’s system of real property taxation, the increase or decrease of one parcel of real property impacts every other parcel. Decreasing the valuation and subsequent tax owed on one parcel will increase the tax burden on all other parcels.
According to Mr. Yoder, “During my tenure as auditor, I have gone to great lengths to ensure that each taxpayer of Logan County was treated fairly and equitably. This was my pledge. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain this fair and equitable treatment given recent developments in the Ohio courts. Of particular concern is that Notestine Manor case arising here in Logan County.” In July 2012, Notestine Manor purchased a vacant piece of land for $145,000.00. The building was then constructed at a cost of approximately $1.5 million dollars which included a federal capital advance of $1.3 million.
The low value is due to the property being part of the HUD Section 202 program which provides rent subsidized by the Federal Government. There are many subsidized low-income housing properties throughout the State of Ohio, most of them valued considerably lower than fair market value. Notestine Manor was built with federal tax dollars that never need to be repaid by the owners. They now have an extremely low valuation which significantly reduces their local property taxes. These taxes help pay for schools, police, fire, emergency medical services and paved streets, to name a few.
Mr. Yoder remarked, “Since becoming Logan County Auditor in 1995, I have become disheartened with the direction the courts have taken on uniform and equitable real property valuations and the inability of the Ohio General Assembly to make necessary statutory changes. I can no longer carry out my statutory responsibilities as Logan County Auditor.”
Coshocton County Auditor Chris Sycks says that this phenomenon is also occurring in this county. The most recent case was the Woda Olde Hickory development in the Canal Lewisville area, and included 34 of the parcels. The county’s appraisal firm had the market values set on the office building at $75,010 and the different homes ranging from $78 to $105 thousand each, depending on the size and characteristics of the homes. The owners appealed the local Board of Revision’s decision of no change to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA). The BTA ordered the office building to be valued at $36,600 and all the homes at $39,800, regardless of individual size or characteristics. This caused the auditor’s total value of $3.156 million for the 34 parcels to be reduced to only $1.35 million, or 42.7% of the value, based on the same arguments as in Logan County’s Notestine Manor case. The result was a refund of $70,139 back to Woda Olde Hickory for the 2 ½ years the case has been ongoing. This amount will be withheld from the next tax settlement, mostly affecting River View Schools, but also affecting various taxing authorities, including a township, JVS, fire district, and county agencies.
Another case was the West Lafayette Townhomes apartments on Plainfield Road, which was ordered reduced to 47.3% of the auditor’s value in 2017 – from $1.375 million to $650 thousand. This generated a refund of $12,354, most of which came from Ridgewood Schools, but affected several other taxing authorities as well. It also put the value at approximately $16 per square foot, or only about $1 per square foot more than the value of most barns in the county.
It is the hope of both Yoder and Sycks that the citizens of Ohio will contact their State Representative and Senator so fairness can be returned to the valuation process.