Data show Athens County home values are up 20 percent, and that means higher taxes

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — If they haven’t heard already, homeowners in Athens County will soon learn that the value of their home has gone up significantly over the past three years.

The outside of 269 E. State St. in Athens, a two-story home.
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The average increase is about 20 percent.

And with rising values come higher property taxes. It’s too soon to tell just how much property taxes will increase until voters decide the fate of multiple levies on the November ballot.

Most of those are existing levies up for replacement or renewal, but two are new: Voters in the Athens school district will decide whether to fund construction of a new high school, and the other is a countywide levy that if approved will raise the tax that funds operation of emergency medical services.

Property taxes are based on the appraised value of a home, which is determined by the county auditor every six years. Three years after each countywide reappraisal, the auditor is required to update the appraisals.

The latest three-year update for Athens County was just completed.

The process begins with the state Department of Taxation. The department takes home sales over the previous three years and crunches the data to determine how much home values have gone up or down in each county.

For Athens County, the department found that values were up 20 percent on average. This is a significant bump in just three years, but it was still one of smallest increases in the state.

Gallia County had the lowest average increase in home values, at nearly 15 percent. Franklin County saw the biggest increase, at nearly 42 percent. Many counties posted increases over 30 percent.

The department passes these numbers along to each county auditor as a recommended target for their reappraisal or update.

The auditor then takes a neighborhood by neighborhood look at home sales over the previous three years to determine how much to raise or lower the appraisals in each neighborhood. These appraisals should reflect fair market value — that is, what a home would likely sell for on the open market.

In some neighborhoods, the new values might be up a little, in others a lot and in some they might go down. But the average for the county should end up close to the state’s recommendation.

While property taxes are based on property values, this does not mean if values go up 20 percent taxes will go up the same.

Instead, how much property taxes increase depends on the levies in place in each taxing district.

Residents in the city of Athens, for example, are taxed under 35 levies. Some of these fund operations at the county level, like emergency medical services, the Children Services agency, services for seniors and the developmentally disabled and the library system. Other levies fund local services, such as schools. And some levies are for specific projects, such as construction of a new fire station.

Most of these levies must be approved by voters, but not all of them. Government entities can adopt levies on their own to fund general operations. Athens County has such a levy, and so does the city of Athens and the Athens school district.

Government-adopted levies are fixed, meaning as property values go up, so does the amount of tax collected. For example, the Athens County levy is 2.3 mills. One mill equals $1 tax for each $1,000 in property value.

Here’s how the math works:

First, homes are taxed as 35 percent of their appraised value. So, if a home is valued at $200,000, the taxable value is

$200,000 x 0.35 = $70,000

This gets multiplied by the levy. The Athens County general levy is 2.3 mills, so that’s $2.30 for each $1,000 in taxable value:

70,000/1,000 = 70

$2.30 x 70 = $161

If that $200,000 home gets reappraised at $250,000, the tax for the Athens County general levy would go from $161 to $201.

The total of government-adopted levies for homeowners in the city of Athens is 9.2 mills. So for that $200,000 home that was reappraised at $250,000, the tax for these levies this year was $644 but next year will be $805.

For the voter-approved levies — and again, that’s most of the levies — the calculation is different. When voters approve a levy, it’s for a certain amount of money.

Suppose the goal is to raise $3 million a year to support emergency medical services. The millage will be set at the amount needed to raise that $3 million based on property appraisals at the time the levy is put on the ballot.

Let’s say it will take 2 mills. Then two years later property values are reappraised – as part of a six-year full reappraisal or a three-year interim update.

If property values have gone up, that 2 mill levy is now going to raise more than $3 million. But that’s not what voters approved. So the millage will be reduced to the amount needed to raise $3 million based on the higher property values.

For example, in 2005, voters approved a 3 mill levy for Athens County Children Services. Property values have increased significantly since then, and the millage for that levy is now just over 2 mills. And it’s about to go down again based on the latest property value update.

This is another reason why it’s too soon to tell just how much individual property taxes are going to go up next year. The adjusted millage for each of the existing voter-approved levies — which now totals 48.31 mills for homeowners in the city of Athens — has to be recalculated based on the higher property values.

Before that can happen, the new values have to receive approval from the state. But before Athens County Auditor Jill Davidson submits this information, she’s giving homeowners time to challenge the new appraisals if they think they’re wrong. She plans to file with the state in early November.

Homeowners can find the new appraisal for their home by looking it up on the auditor’s website. If they have questions or concerns about the new value, they can make an appointment to meet with an appraiser by calling (740) 592-3223, emailing, or dropping by the auditor’s office at 15 S. Court St., Room 330, in Athens.