I-Team: Tax scare for citizens but not our top elected officials

CUYAHOGA COUNTY -- The FOX 8 I-Team has found many Cuyahoga County residents facing soaring property taxes, but local elected officials are not. So we’re investigating why.

We’ve shown you, new estimates of property values have many homeowners in Cuyahoga County worried about skyrocketing tax bills. We’ve seen proposed property values doubling, and tripling and more.

The I-Team investigated the properties of Cuyahoga County’s top elected officials. We found nothing even close to the increases for regular citizen property owners like Roman Dowhanuk.

"They’re just gouging us. They’re just gouging us,” said Dowhanuk.

The I-Team looked at proposed property values for County Executive Armond Budish and for the County Council Members.

We found the value for one council member dropped 8%. The others went up, but the biggest increase for the others was just 22%.

It has been much worse for everyday citizens.

We went to County Councilwoman Shontel Brown. The proposed property value increase for her home is 22%, but she says there has been no special treatment for elected officials.

Brown said, "There was no purposeful evaluation, at least not to my knowledge, where we were excluded. I mean we live like humble citizens of the community, at least I do."

The I-Team wanted to talk to the county’s chief executive about our investigation, but he wasn’t available.

County staffers then looked at the same numbers we did and came up with an argument to say, again, there is no special treatment.

The county says, there are no wild changes, but most council members have seen an increase higher than the average in the communities where they live.

The county says changes in property values are determined by area property sales, specifics about each home and much more. And, simply because there’s a big change in your property value does not automatically mean you’ll see that exact increase in your tax bill.

Citizens can appeal and question the new values coming in the mail.

The county hopes to finalize everything by November.

Activists in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods such as Tremont and Edgewater have put together their own spreadsheets showing the striking changes in property values. They plan to confront county leaders and raise questions about what’s happening.

Roman Dowhanuk can’t understand how no top leaders are getting walloped. He added, “If they think my property is worth the value they say it is, give me the money and I’m gone.”

Continuing coverage here.