MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Auditor Jonette Curry has been busy her first week in office. Curry has taken over the auditor’s duties, which include addressing taxpayers’ concerns about property tax increases in the county and managing the appeals process.
Curry was appointed to the position Thursday after serving as chief deputy auditor under former auditor Margaret Ann Ruhl. Working with her staff, she is preparing to address over 150 official complaints which have been filed with the auditor’s office since new revaluations were sent out last fall.
Curry said the public can still file a complaint, using a form available online and in the auditor’s office. The deadline for doing so is March 31. Tax bills have not yet been mailed; she expects more complaints will be filed once taxpayers receive their increased bills.
The Knox County Treasurer’s Office mails the bills, which are due Feb. 13. Curry said the Ohio Revised Code requires taxpayers be given at least 20 days to pay their taxes, so she expects the bills will go out soon.
Curry explained the appeal process, which will begin after the March 31 deadline. Members of the Board of Revision will go over all the appeals, and visit every property involved in an appeal.
The Board of Revision consists of Curry; Sandra Mizer, Knox county treasurer; Allen Stockberger, chairman of the Knox County Commissioners; an in-house appraiser from the auditor’s office; and an appraiser from the independent firm John G. Cleminshaw Inc.
Curry urged those making complaints to include as much information as possible with the paperwork.
“The more information you can give us, the better, whether that be an independent appraisal or sale values in the area,” she said.
She said although no one is happy with increased property tax rates, the board needs specific information to consider.
“We take those things into account and look at our appraisal versus their value and review it,” she said.
Curry said some appeals may result in changes to tax bills.
“It depends on the individual circumstances,” she said.
The next step in the process are informal hearings. Curry said taxpayers will be notified of any changes.
If any changes are made, she said, they will be for the entire year. Because at that point in the process the first half of the year’s taxes will have been paid, she said any reduction for the first half will be credited toward the bill for the second half of the year.
However, once members of the board visit a property, some bills may be increased if improvements not included in the reappraisals completed last year are discovered.
“That has happened,” Curry said.
According to Curry and deputy auditor Mandy Craze, the office’s in-house appraiser, air conditioning, wood decks, outbuildings and other improvements not previously noted could actually increase the appraisal.
Once taxpayers are notified if their bills will be reduced, increased, or remain unchanged according to the board’s decision, they have the option of accepting the change or continuing with the appeals process.
“If they accept that change, our case is basically closed,” said Curry. “If they don’t accept that letter of value, we will notify them of their right to a formal hearing.”
She said property owners have the right to formally appear in front of the board to share their information and state their case.
The appraisal firm of John G. Cleminshaw Inc. completed all of the original reappraisals done last year, Curry said. The same features regarding each property were considered in each case. The prices of completed home sales around each property were also considered in the revaluations.
Curry said taxpayers will be able to see on their property tax bills the exact breakdown of their taxes.
“If your tax bill is $1,000 for six months, you will be able to see exactly where that $1,000 is going,” she said.
“Every single item is itemized so they can see how much is going toward each levy,” she added.
Curry said the three new countywide levies approved by Knox County voters in November for the park district, health department and MRDD will affect tax bills.
“This is the first time we’ve taxed on those three levies countywide,” she explained.
The new Muskinghum Watershed Conservancy District assessment, which was approved by judges from several counties, including Knox, will also increase tax bills.
Curry said the assessment is not calculated by her office, and can vary from $12 for some homeowners, to several hundred for businesses. Property owners such as school districts and churches who are exempt from property taxes will also pay the assessment.
Craze and Curry estimated 6.9 percent of a property owner’s tax bill goes into the general operating fund of the county. The general fund pays for everything from county law enforcement to county road repairs and county government operating expenses.
Curry said that last year, $3,081,636.26 in property tax revenue was put into the general fund. She said this is about one fourth of the annual operating expenses of Knox County.
The Knox County Treasurer’s Office is responsible for going after any delinquent property taxes through the collection process. The office can recover the money through the courts, and ultimately through foreclosure proceedings.