CLEVELAND — Jane Knoblauch is wondering if she'll be able to continue to afford her Cleveland Scranton Road home after she received a new 2021 property appraisal from Cuyahoga County that boosted her property's value from $68,000 to more than $86,000.
The county is in the process of sending new property value appraisals in the mail to nearly 490,000 Cuyahoga County homeowners and business owners.
Knoblauch, 65, said she has already been forced to go back to work so she could keep her home, based on the property tax increase issued by the county in 2018.
"They’re coming in the mail and I’m like holding my breath thinking please, please, please let it be reasonable," Knoblauch said. “It’s scary to have to worry, when they send that property tax bill. Am I going to be able to continue to pay this and stay in my house, or do I have to move? I don’t want to do that, I love being here, I’ve been here almost 30 years.”
Henry Senyak, Chairperson with the Lincoln Heights Block Club, told News 5 he's heard from more than a dozen homeowners in his Cleveland Tremont neighborhood who are concerned a large property tax hike will force them to move out of Cleveland.
“There’s going to be many foreclosures, it’s going to put a lot more people out onto the streets unless there can be some level of LOOP legislation,” Senyak said. “The county should host a meeting in each ward. People’s property values can go up 100% in the course of six years. How can low-income families and people on fixed incomes afford to stay in their homes?"
Senyak pointed to LOOP legislation, or Longtime Owner Occupants Programs, like one launched by the City of Philadelphia. The program places a cap on property tax hikes for homeowners who have lived in their homes for at least ten years and meet certain income requirements.
Ohio State Senator Sandra Williams, District 21, (D), has proposed similar legislation to the statehouse in Columbus in the form of Senate Bill 192, which would cap property tax increases to no more than 10% per year.
Williams told News 5 the measure is caught in the Ways and Means Committee, but she is still hoping it could be up for a vote in 2021.
“The qualifications are for you to live in your residence for at least 10 years, there are no income qualifications," Williams said. “There are people here who have been loyal to the city, who can not afford the increase that are coming along with all the development happening in some Cleveland neighborhoods."
Lisa Rocco, Director of Operations with the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office, told News 5 homeowners should not be so quickly concerned. Rocco said even though the county will not be hosting one-on-one sessions with property owners like it did in 2018, it will host a series of eleven community meetings starting on Oct. 5.
Rocco said the meetings are designed to give homeowners all the information they need to assemble their case if they don't agree with their new property appraisal, and get prepared to submit their appeal to the county Board of Revision starting on Jan. 1.
"Just because your home may go up a certain percentage, doesn’t mean your tax bill will necessarily go up that same percentage," Rocco said.
"What I suggest you do is that you pay your tax bill, and then if you get a reduction in value from the Board of Revision, we'll then refund what you’ve overpaid. People can file online, now if you don’t have access to internet, please call us.”
Rocco said the county has also posted a tax calculator so that homeowners can more accurately equate their property value increase with a possible property tax increase.
Meanwhile, some Cleveland homeowners like Knoblauch believe they are now faced with a very uncertain future.
“Now we’re up another $20,000 and it’s like it’s too much," Knoblauch said. I’m going to be doing a lot of twisting my hair at night, trying to figure out how I’m going to make that happen and pay my bills.”