Changes to Senate Bill 57 (“SB 57”) this Fall will bring a new round of property valuation complaints filed by property owners seeking tax relief from losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since school funding still is based in part on property tax values, school district treasurers should know the strict requirements for these complaints so they can take appropriate steps to preserve their property tax base.
Under SB 57, qualifying property owners can file a special property valuation complaint with your county board of revision seeking a reduction in property value as of October 1, 2020, due to losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the complaint has to meet specific requirements. Here is what districts should look for:
- Was the complaint timely filed? For tax year 2020, property owners may file COVID-19 complaints for reduction in value during a short window: between August 3, 2021 and September 2, 2021.
- Did the property owner file more than one complaint for tax year 2020? Generally, a property owner can file only one complaint in an interim period unless specific events occur (such as a sale). SB 57 waives this rule and permits owners to file a COVID-19 complaint even if they filed a complaint for that parcel in a preceding tax year in the same interim period. Please note, however, that it does not appear that SB 57 permits an owner to file multiple complaints for tax year 2020.
- Is the complaint specific enough? The complaint has to “allege with particularity” how a COVID-19 circumstance or state order caused the reduction in value. Boards of revision must dismiss a complaint if it merely alleges a general decline in economic or market conditions because of COVID-19.
- Was the complaint filed by an appropriate party? Ohio law permits only certain people or entities to file property tax complaints.
If the complaint meets these threshold requirements, the property owner will have to provide evidence that the true value as of October 1, 2020 was diminished due to COVID-19 circumstances or a state COVID-19 order. If the property owner succeeds, then the board of revision will adjust the property’s value for that tax year. Property owners will be able to file COVID-19 complaints for tax years 2021 and 2022, as well.
Notably, SB 57 did not change school district timelines for filing counter-complaints; in other words, a counter-complaint still must be filed within 30 days of the school district treasurer receiving notice of the COVID-19 complaint from the county auditor. Districts should be on the lookout for any communications from their county auditors in the next few weeks to ensure they meet all necessary deadlines. Additionally, districts may want to work with their legal counsel to evaluate the new complaints because an appropriate challenge could preserve thousands of dollars in real estate taxes each year.