County begins annual tax collection

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2000

Lawrence County residents who owe 1999 property taxes have until March 13 to pay at least half of their bill.

Thursday, February 03, 2000

Lawrence County residents who owe 1999 property taxes have until March 13 to pay at least half of their bill.

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Lines of bill-toting property owners formed outside county treasurer Ken Howell’s courthouse office Monday as the first day of collections began.

About 51,000 bills were mailed Friday – about 10 days late because of printing problems, Howell said.

"All I heard at church Sunday was ‘You sent me my love letter in the mail,’" he said. "You can pay the whole bill or half but you only have to pay half by the deadline."

And the deadline is not what appears on the bills, Howell said.

The March 12 deadline, which appears on each statement, falls on a Sunday, so tax payments must be received by the close of business on Monday, March 13, he said.

County officials predict few tax collection problems this year, auditor Ray Dutey said.

Because property values increased for residents after a 1998 state-ordered reassessment, many 1999 tax bills increased. Hundreds of residents filed complaints, claiming their property was valued too high.

Only eight property owners took complaints through the entire process, filing with the state’s Board of Tax Relief in Columbus, Dutey said.

Three of those cases are pending, while two owners received property valuation reductions and three withdrew their complaints, he said.

Of the complaints at the county level, very few owners saw their property values change because the state bases values at least partially on sales figures, and property sales had been brisk since the last reassessment, Dutey said.

"We don’t want people to pay on more than what their property is worth, either, but it’s based on sales and that can change things," he said.

Taxes are only applied to 35 percent of a property’s value, and residents who feel that value is too high on this year’s bills may still file a complaint, Dutey added.

"We’ve taken care of most of the assessed value complaints so we shouldn’t have as many this year," he said.

The only things affecting tax bills this year are three new tax levies and a change in the state’s tax reduction formula, Howell said.

Residents in areas affected by a Chesapeake fire levy, a new Chesapeake schools levy and an Upper Township fire levy will see tax bill changes, he said.

The state tax reduction decreases rates, but that is determined differently in each taxing district.

"And, if there were any additions or improvements to properties and it’s picked up, that could change bills," Dutey said.

Still, Lawrence County’s total tax rate remains the lowest in the state, he said.

Most county residents pay taxes totaling about 35 to 40 mills, Dutey said.

Counties across the state average about 70 mills, with some areas like the Cleveland and Cuyahoga County areas experiencing a rate as high as 100 mills, he said.