You have to be pretty honked off to spend this much time researching something.
Martin Bramlett was. When he opened his mail one recent day, the Ravenna resident discovered the county was going to jack up his appraised property value by $16,000 — a 17.7 percent increase in just three years.
That, of course, means his property tax will go up.
He thought the huge hike was ridiculous and unfair. So he decided to look online at the difference between previous Portage County appraisals and the new ones.
One of the properties he located was the home of Janet and Anthony Esposito. Janet is the Portage County auditor, whose office is in charge of setting the values.
Well, well, well. The value of the home owned by the Espositos has decreased by $2,100, or 2.4 percent.
To be fair, she was not part of the 2015 Triennial update and was last appraised in 2012. But keep reading.
Because Bramlett lives 2 miles away from her on North Prospect Street, he decided to check out the new appraisals for homeowners who live in her immediate neighborhood on South Prospect in Ravenna Township.
He dug into the records of seven of her neighbors, all on the same side of the street (west side) in the half-mile stretch between Summit Street and the Six C Corp. Some of them were last appraised in 2015 and some in 2012.
Regardless, he discovered that, unlike Esposito, every other homeowner was hit with an increase. The hikes ranged from $500 to $19,400.
I checked his math. In every case it was correct to the dollar.
The average hike for her seven neighbors was $9,143. Three homeowners experienced a double-digit percentage increase.
Which certainly begs a question: Why did the county auditor's property value drop when everyone else's in her neighborhood rose?
Esposito insists nothing untoward is going on.
“Look throughout Ravenna or the county and you'll find a number of properties decreased in value,” she said in an email.
But why did properties all around her go up?
“My house is not part of the Timber Run neighborhood of houses,” which were built in the 1990s, unlike her house, built in 1955. She says things look different when you exclude those two houses.
One of the two is 200 feet north of her and other is 230 feet south. The one to the north rose $12,400. The one to the south rose $19,400.
But even if you eliminate the Timber Run houses (which were both appraised in 2015), she is still the only property owner in that stretch to receive a dip. She says that the house most similar to hers, located a tenth of a mile away, “is in average condition [hers is “fair”] and has more garage and exterior features.” True. But it was built the same year, is smaller and has a smaller yard. And its value rose $13,700!
The property physically closest to her house that she deems “comparable,” about 300 feet north, saw a $500 increase. “That house is 10 years newer and has more land [one acre to 0.62].”
That house also is 250 square feet smaller — 17 percent — and, unlike Esposito's, has only a partial basement and no central air conditioning.
Esposito complained that my reader and I only looked at one side of the road. Well, there are six properties on the other side of bustling South Prospect between Summit Street and the Six C Corp., and just one of them is a single-family home.
The auditor is directly across from an FOP Lodge, which covers 2.2 acres. Nearby are two light-manufacturing operations and an East Ohio Gas facility.
The only home on the east side was downgraded the same amount as Esposito's — $2,400. But that house is 54 years older, is smaller and has less land.
Perhaps, if we're truly looking for “comparables,” we should turn to the auditor's own website, which includes a section for exactly that. The county lists two properties that sold recently that are considered comparable to her $84,200-appraised house. One on Mogadore Road went for $125,000 and one on Dawley Road went for $136,500.
Esposito offered to send out an appraiser to Bramlett's place “to review the property or answer any questions he may have to better understand the process of mass appraisals.” As of this writing, I haven't reconnected with him, so I don't know where that stands.
I do know that he had already planned to appeal, so this may grease the wheels.
And that's the good news. Anyone who thinks his or her abode is highly overrated (ironically, in every other case a homeowner would be insulted) can appeal the 2018 reappraisal. The necessary form is available at the auditor's office at 449 S. Meridian St. in Ravenna or online here: https://tinyurl.com/y7voqm3a.
I'm guessing the auditor will not be filing an appeal.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.