CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some Cuyahoga County homeowners will find their property values plummeted by 30 percent in the first state-mandated property reappraisal since Frank Russo corrupted the process as auditor.
Overall, the county’s residential property value dropped about 9 percent since 2009, when an update pushed down values 8 percent from a high in 2006. Values in all but six communities fell.
Cleveland home values plunged 30 percent on the East Side, but slumped only 12.5 percent on the West Side. Neighboring Parma and Brooklyn also had similar slides. Values in the northwest corner of the county stayed fairly steady, as they did in Berea, Beachwood and a few other eastern suburbs. But inner-ring suburbs, such as East Cleveland, Euclid, Maple Heights suffered unprecedented drops.
Values in Warrensville Heights fell by 29.2 percent.
“I am alarmed,” said Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers. “When I saw that number, I wasn’t pleased at all. Now I’ve got to come up with a strategy. How we going to pivot?”
The numbers are averages. And they’re preliminary; the state must review the county’s calculations this month. Then the county can mail tentative values.
Homeowners can dispute their tentative values by phone, mail, email, or by attending meetings with county officials. Meetings will be held Aug. 6 through 25 at the east, west and downtown campuses of Cuyahoga Community College.
The state requires reappraisals every six years with updates every three years in between. Cuyahoga County appraisers began scrutinizing the county’s 456,000 houses last September.
County Executive Ed FitzGerald, whose charter government took office in 2011, has said he hopes a meticulous approach to this reappraisal will restore public trust in a process that had been corrupted.
Problems with the county’s reappraisals go back 12 years to when Russo served as county auditor and oversaw the work. Residential appraisals were handled by dozens of county staffers, many of whom lacked expertise in appraising property.
Russo, who has pleaded guilty to 21 corruption-related crimes, awarded $21 million in commercial appraisal work in exchange for more than $1 million in bribes. The disgraced auditor faces a lengthy prison term.
Values this year must reflect market value as of Jan. 1, and are the basis for taxes that fund city and county governments, schools, libraries and parks.
Falling home values won’t cut much from tax bills, though, because most of the tab is for school and library taxes, which readjust when property values change. Tax rates decrease when home values increase, and vice versa, so that revenue remains relatively steady.
But a small portion of bills is made up of fixed-rate taxes and recently passed tax rates that cannot go any higher. That’s where property owners save a bit of money and cities, the county and school districts lose out
“It’s going to mean a lot of the school districts and municipalities are going to have to go back and look at their budgets,” said county Fiscal Officer Wade Steen.
Some cities, such as Bay Village, will be relatively unscathed when the depressed values take hold next year. The lakeside suburb inched down .6 percent.
“Solid and stable” is how Mayor Debbie Sutherland describes her city. She attributes that evenness to Lake Erie, a good school system, strong services and a building department that dogs any neglected properties.
Other cities that aggressively dealt with foreclosures were harder hit.
Values in Euclid declined 25.3 percent despite the city investing $3.5 million in neighborhood stabilization grants, demolishing 100 eyesores, fixing up 25 houses and giving grants to first-time homeowners, said Mayor Bill Cervenik.
“We have just got to keep working hard,” Cervenik said. “I certainly hope that the problems here have bottomed out. Much of this, virtually all of this, not only in our community but others, is not our doing, but has been caused by all these other outside influences.”
Mayors don’t yet know how much the dive in values will cut government budgets; that depends on tax rates and when voters last approved increases. Regardless, the effect will be felt.
“It puts a bigger burden on both the city and the school to provide the necessary services,” said Sellers, who, like Cervenik, wants to meet with county officials to see how appraisers arrived at new values.
To set values, the county devised a computer program to analyze the characteristics of each house and the neighborhood’s sales history. The program also calculated three possible values, based on the home’s attributes, comparable sales and the cost of building the house, minus depreciation.
Then, 32 professional appraisers under contract to the county physically reviewed the houses and chose values. County employees organized the data, decided values for new structures and re-evaluated properties that contractors were unsure about.
The entire process cost the county less than $10 million, compared with $20 million under Russo, Steen said. And Steen believes the results are more accurate.
“It’s as thorough a full reappraisal as I’ve seen,” he said. “It doesn’t mean everyone’s going to agree with the value on their particular property… But there have been a lot of sets of eyes on it.”
For more than 30 years, from 1976 to 2009, home values in Cuyahoga County increased an average of 5 percent annually.
But in the last property update in 2009, values slid an average of 8 percent across the county. Some municipalities fell as much as 12 percent, while only Hunting Valley and Chagrin Falls Township saw increases. Seven communities remained stable.
|Bay Village||-0.6%||Gates Mills||-2.0%||Olmsted Township||-3.9%|
|Bedford Heights||-11.2%||Highland Hills||-11.1%||Parma Heights||-10.3%|
|Bentleyville||1.7%||Hunting Valley||3.0%||Pepper Pike||2.1%|
|Broadview Heights||-0.7%||Lyndhurst||-11.5%||Shaker Heights||-7.2%|
|Brook Park||-12.0%||Maple Heights||-33.1%||Solon||-3.0%|
|Brooklyn Heights||-6.1%||Mayfield Heights||-6.4%||Strongsville||-3.6%|
|Chagrin Falls||9.5%||Middleburg Heights||-6.8%||University Heights||-2.7%|
|Chagrin Falls Township||4.8%||Moreland Hills||2.2%||Valley View||-1.8%|
|Cleveland||-20.7%||Newburgh Heights||-15.8%||Walton Hills||-1.3%|
|Cleveland Heights||-4.7%||North Olmsted||-7.2%||Warrensville Heights||-29.2%|
|Cuyahoga Heights||-1.0%||North Randall||-20.1%||Westlake||-1.4%|
|East Cleveland||-22.8%||North Royalton||-3.2%||Woodmere||-6.1%|
|Euclid||-25.3%||Oakwood||-4.3%||Cleveland – East||-29.9%|
|Fairview Park||-3.4%||Olmsted Falls||-5.9%||Cleveland – West||-12.5%|