By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The two candidates for Wood County auditor differ on a major role of the office – how property appraisals ought to be conducted.
The Democratic candidate for Wood County auditor has accused the Republican candidate of outsourcing jobs. Buddy Ritson has called for an end to privatized property appraisals in Wood County.
But incumbent Matt Oestreich is defending the practice, saying the vast majority of Ohio counties contract with private firms to conduct appraisals. To do otherwise would be more costly and less efficient, he said.
Of the 88 Ohio counties, only 10 do in-house property appraisals, Oestreich said. Those 10 are the largest counties that have enough staff to do appraisals themselves.
Property appraisals are done every six years, so most counties can’t employ enough staff to conduct those periodic jobs, he said.
“You’d have to have trained appraisers on your staff,” to do the appraisals in-house. And those employees would only be needed every six years when the appraisals are conducted, Oestreich said.
The Wood County Auditor’s Office has always contracted with private appraisal firms, Oestreich said. The firms work in the county for 18 to 24 months, then move on to another county, he said.
Wood County currently pays $1,258,000 to a company named Lexur Enterprises in Dayton to have the appraisals completed, Ritson said.
“These are jobs that can be done here in Wood County. With the number of contracts and the tasks associated with them, these are good paying full-time jobs that should be done here in Wood County,” Ritson said. “To outsource these jobs, as the Auditor’s Office is doing, is bad for the county and its taxpayers.”
While the appraisals aren’t done in office, some Wood County citizens were employed in the process. According to Oestreich, during the 2017 mass reappraisal a Perrysburg resident served as the project supervisor, and two other Wood County residents worked on the reappraisals.
“Having appraisers living in Wood County is a definite benefit to the process of determining real estate values, as they have a pulse on the local market,” Oestreich said.
Through an information request with the Ohio Department of Taxation, Ritson said he found five additional contracts with Lexur Enterprises since 2014 that include yearly new construction updates, assistance with value defenses, triennial updates, and additional appraisal services. All of the contracts with Lexur Enterprises total nearly $1.75 million, which is paid out of the Real Estate Assessment Fund, according to Ritson.
Oestreich said the county has approximately 75,000 parcels appraised every six years. The firm doing the appraisals is paid about $16.75 per parcel.
“We look at the market. We look at the characteristics of the house to determine the value,” the auditor said.
Property owners disputing the appraisals for their property can file appeals. Ritson found 164 appeals, which resulted in a downward adjustment of more than $2.3 million in the county property values.
“Our property values are higher than they should be and this downward adjustment proves that,” Ritson said.
But Oestreich said adjustments are a natural part of the appraisal process. Every appraisal year has its share of appeals – which is why counties have boards of revisions.
The total market value of all the parcels in Wood County adds up to approximately $9.142 billion. It’s only natural that in 75,000 parcels appraised that there would be some outliers, Oestreich said.
“Uniformity is the most important thing with appraisals,” he said. However, “the appeal process allows taxpayers a voice to help the auditor determine the true market value of some parcels which may be statistical outliers.”