Board of Revision Hears Coal Company Tax Appeal Cases

By
Fred Kight

Dateline
Updated Tue, Jul 17, 2012 2:49 pm

An attorney says he's not giving up with his effort to change the way mineral rights are taxed in Athens County.     

Don Wirtshafter spoke after an unsuccessful appearance Monday morning before the Athens County Board of Revision.
 
Wirtshafter represented several property owners in 13 tax appeal cases against Sugar Creek Coal and Mining Company.
 
The complaints argued the property owners' taxes are too high and Sugar Creek's are too low, but the Board denied the complaints.
 
Board member and County Treasurer Javon Kittle Cooper says Wirtshafter presented no evidence to support his cases.
 
Wirtshafter says he expected to lose.
 
"If we succeeded at anything this morning, we pointed out the deficiencies in the way that Athens County is evaluating these properties: a system that results in very valuable coal properties being appraised at zero right now, which is not right. These properties are supposed to be appraised at their true market value," said Wirtshafter.
 
The cases were filed at a time when oil and gas leasing activity, possibly for fracking wells, is on the upswing.
 
Wirtshafter points out some property owners have been offered big money for drilling rights.
 
"Certainly the interest in fracking has raised the value of these mineral rights to several thousand dollars an acre at one point, especially because there are so many acres so contiguous to each other, it's very valuable for the frackers. Our point is, if this $2,500 an acre were to come to area, it is the coal company that makes this money, not the landowners," said Wirtshafter.
 
Wirtshafter says the cases will be appealed to the Ohio Tax Commission.
 
He needs to take his case to the legislature, according to Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson, also a member of the Board of Revision.
 
Thompson says Wirtshafter was really arguing against the taxing process, something outside of the Board's authority. 
 
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