Do Right Thing For Taxpayers

Most land and buildings in Ohio County are worth more than they were just a few years ago, and that is good news for their owners. At the same time, there is bad news: Property taxes may be going up.

Thousands of property owners have been notified of increases in the values of their properties, as determined by the county Assessor’s Office. Assessor Kathie Hoffman said the increases are around 10 percent.

They result from compliance with state rules requiring assessors in all 55 counties to update property valuations periodically. One part of the formula for that takes recent sales of properties into account and in Ohio County, “we have seen a substantial increase in sales,” Hoffman noted.

Even as she notifies property owners that, as far as her office is concerned, their buildings and land are worth more, Hoffman is mindful of the effect that will have on tax bills.

Property taxes are collected as percentages of the value of land and buildings. Those percentages are set, within limits allowable under state law, by local government bodies including boards of education, city councils and county commissions.

If percentages are left at current rates, many property owners will be paying higher taxes in the future.

Local government bodies will set tax rates in May, as they prepare budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Hoffman thinks the rates should be reduced to stave off higher tax bills. She is absolutely right.

The cost of providing municipal, county and education services increases continually, so taxing bodies may be eager for some new revenue. At the same time, local government officials should understand the cost of running a household or operating a business increases continually.

Ohio County property owners should not have to bear an increased burden as a result of the increase in valuations. Local governing bodies should hold the line on property tax revenue – and that will mean lowering levy rates.

Higher property values should not be viewed by local officials as an opportunity to reap a windfall in revenue, but as a chance to do the right thing for taxpayers.