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Real Estate Revaluations May Influence Tax Levy Outcomes

Several school tax levies will appear on Franklin County ballots in November. Supporters say additional money is needed for things like curricula, buildings and operating expenses. But recent real estate revaluations may cause voters to think twice about approving more taxes.

Bright yellow yard signs supporting a Westerville school tax levy dot lawns around the district. The district is one of several in central Ohio that are asking voters to approve additional property taxes on November 8th. But the levy requests occur against the backdrop of recent property revaluations that are causing some homeowners to balk at the thought of paying more taxes.

My taxes are so high that I can't afford em. I'll have to say no, says Dorothy Carter.

Westerville resident Dorothy Carter, after looking at her recent tax bill, said jokingly she'd have to sell her house to pay her taxes When I purchased my house in 1990, my taxes for a year were a little over $700. And here it is 2005 and they're almost $2,000, Carter says.

Recent real estate revaluations by the Franklin County Auditor will almost certainly play a part in whether the levy initiatives pass or fail. Westerville has seen a 16 percent increase in appraised value from 3 years ago. The county-wide increase averages 21 percent. But county auditor Joe Testa says some taxpayers don't understand that a 21 percent revaluation does not mean a 21 percent tax increase... One of the big misconceptions is that an increase in value equates to an increase in tax - and it does not, Testa says.

It's a complicated formula, according to Testa, that's used to calculate tax amounts. But asked if the revaluations mean a tax increase, Testa says

In ten words or less? Ah yes.

And if voters approve a tax levy in their district, will they pay even more?

Yes, absolutely. Because that's new millage that's added to the effective tax rate.

How much an individual property owner would pay can easily be found on the Franklin County auditor's website. The site displays each homeowner's current taxes and estimates the amount of each new levy should it be approved.

For example: The additional taxes the owner of a $182,000 house in Worthington would pay if the library initiative passes? $145 a year. The increase in Westerville for the owner of a $173,000 home if the school district levy passes? $343 annually. And if voters in the Grandview Heights district approve both proposed levies, the owners of a $166,000 house would pay $484 a year.

Levy proponents such as Westerville's Marlis Burns are putting their campaigns in the best possible light

Westerville wants to be competitive with other districts. We don't want to be a state minimum district and that's where we're going to be if the levy fails, says Marlis Burns.

David Nicely, the Grandview Heights district treasurer, says his schools lost $800,000 when a Big Bear warehouse closed.

I don't know about you but I'm never happy about needing to pay more taxes. But I am happy about the kinds of things my tax dollars buy, says Nicely.

Asked if Franklin County's revaluations would hurt the Grandview Heights levy's chances, campaign co-chair Connie Anderson answered

I think our job is to educate people and that's been the focus of our whole campaign. I think the more people know, the more likely they are to support the school levy, says Anderson.

Sam Hendren, WOSU News.