Problem Solvers: Are You Paying Too Much In Property Taxes?

GALESBURG, Mich. (May 8, 2014)– A West Michigan man is crying foul over his recent property tax bills.

After running his Galesburg home through an online property tax calculating program, Ken Case found that he could be paying more than $800 more a year than he should.

He said the assessment more than doubled from the original sales price, increasing his tax bill by hundreds of dollars.

Case contacted the FOX 17 Problem Solvers for answers, showing us the home he bought in Galesburg for around $17,000 in late 2011 and early 2012 for his girlfriend and her three children.

“She’s a cancer survivor,” he said about his girlfriend.

Case said the home he purchased was a foreclosure and he decided to fix it up.

“It sat on the market for three years. I bought it in late 2010, early 2011,” he said.

After putting in new windows, a new deck, and some other improvements inside such as drywall repair, Case said the value began climbing, along with his taxes.

Documents from the Galesburg assessor’s office show that Case’s property was assessed in 2012 at around $32,000, then the assessment climbed to around $36,000 in 2013.

It’s projected to go up to around $37,000 in 2014 and then approximately $39,000 in 2015.

“The taxes have really climbed now, they basically went from like $300 to $400 a year when I bought it, now they are almost $2,000,” said Case.

He showed us the bill for his taxes in February 2012, which was $732, and then he said it climbed to $1031.51 by February of this year.

Case checked a tax website created by 1 – 800 LAW FIRM in Southfield, that crunches numbers in order to show you whether you are paying too much in property taxes.

On that application, you simply type in your email address and the application sends you a message, telling you what it deems your tax bill should be and how much you might be overpaying.

It showed he was paying $809 more than he should per year.

“I knew I was paying more than I should have been, but it was still a little irking,” said Case.

We talked to 1 – 800 LAW FIRM, the agency that created the online application.

“It’s going to see what your property is assessed at. It’s going to compare it with other information that he grabs from other databases and calculate the millage of that particular area and it will tell you how much money you might be able to save,” said CEO Ari Kresch.

He said overvaluation of homes is a common problem in Michigan.

“Right now our results have been one out of four homes has been getting a decrease,” said Kresch.

To test the application we also ran a home belonging to a FOX 17 employee and found it was valued appropriately.

This was much different than Ken’s results, so we decided to talk to the Galesburg Assessor Patrick Couch.

We were told by staff that Couch did not have a direct line where we could leave a message.

They said he was only in the office from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday. We stopped by the office to talk with Couch.

He said he couldn’t talk about the case on camera because it was going to go before the state tax tribunal.

However, he said he’s not aware of online property tax calculators.

He goes on to say, “It’s pretty hard to value a home without going out and doing an inspection.”

“The board of review is concerned with value.  If you just go in there and say my taxes are too high, you are going to lose,” said Couch.

Case’s attorney argued by letter to the board of review in Galesburg that the home valuation was too high and in violation of the state constitution.

However, the board denied the appeal saying, the “Petitioner failed to provide evidence establishing True Cash Value.  Did not meet burden of proof.”

It went on to say, “No evidence of value was provided that established lower values.”

Couch said the burden of proof is on Ken Case and he failed to provide evidence of value, comparable properties and an appraisal to support his appeal.

1-800 LAW FIRM is representing Case and said that it’s not uncommon for a local board to deny a claim based on those arguments.

They say most of their claims are worked out at the state level, where there is more time to go in-depth when they take an appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

“When we go to a board of review, sometimes it’s just not worth the money to the client, to pay for an appraisal,” said Joshua Schillair, Director of the Property Tax Division at 1-800 LAW FIRM.

“It’s usually not worth the investment because even with very good information the rejection rate is very, very high,” said Schillair.

As for Case, he is interested in seeing what the Michigan Tax Tribunal has to say about the numbers when the appeal goes to the state level this summer.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen I don’t know if they’re going to do anything or we’re going to end up having to sell it just because I can’t afford to keep it,” said Case.

As for that tax application that tells you what your value should be, you can find a link to property tax calculator online.

Or, you can also call 1 – 800 LAW FIRM to submit your information by phone. The phone number listed online, (800) 659-9885.

However, if the window for a possible local appeal is up, you may not be able to get an answer back on your property taxes until October.

Schillair said if you get a message saying the time for appeal has lapsed, the law firm’s program will automatically send an answer to you when the window for appeal opens again.

He said the program is free.

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