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Summit County Council gets an earful from property owners about tax increases

The COVID-19 pandemic brought heavy migration to Summit County as people looked for more space to recreate - jacking up housing prices.
Parker Malatesta
The COVID-19 pandemic brought heavy migration to Summit County as people looked for more space to recreate - jacking up housing prices.

Summit County's total market value came in at $46 billion in 2022, which is a 38% increase compared to last year.

On Wednesday the Summit County Council heard from dozens of residents upset about sharp increases in their property taxes.

Longtime property owners said they feel they’re the victims of a red-hot housing market driven by pandemic-era newcomers from other states. They said the new normal of bidding wars and skyrocketing prices is driving higher tax bills.

County assessor Stephanie Poll told those who turned out for Wednesday’s council meeting that her staff of seven people is responsible for assessing 42,000 parcels.

Poll said that over 500 commercial properties are overdue for assessment. All properties, residential and commercial, are supposed to be assessed once every five years if not more frequently. Commercial properties are taxed at a higher rate than residential properties, so a commercial backlog would have a more significant impact on the bottom line than a similarly sized backlog on homes.

County councilmember Roger Armstrong told KPCW Thursday that catching up on under-assessed properties will help equalize the tax burden.

“You’ve got these higher valuations that have pushed theoretically the tax rate down, but there are many properties out there that are still under-assessed that would have pushed it down even further and would have equalized things better,” Armstrong said.

However, he said there’s no evidence to suggest there are any substantial flaws in the overall mass evaluation.

Property owners who believe they have been assessed incorrectly can appeal through the Board of Equalization until September 15.

The council also got an update from the North Summit Fire District Wednesday. The district is growing rapidly but needs more funding to boost staffing and replace old equipment and infrastructure.

Armstrong, who also chairs the fire district’s administrative control board, said the fire district is currently operating at a deficit of about $400,000 per year.

Northside residents will have a chance to give input about how much they’re willing to be taxed to support the fire district’s services.

“We will be moving something out to the public for public discussion and for their consideration that says, for this level of service it would require a tax increase of x," Armstrong said. "If we increase that service to this, it would require an additional tax increase. And if we increase it even more, it would require something else.”

He also highlighted that 85% of fire district work is medical emergencies, and staffing and response time are critical for resident health and safety.