Y-town BOE voices tax demand

YOUNGSTOWN — Some members of the Youngstown Board of Education say they want the $314,383 in delinquent school real estate taxes owed on Oakhill Renaissance Place.

“We are in deficit,” said board member Lock P. Beachum Sr., speaking at a board finance committee meeting Tuesday.   He asked what the board can do to secure those funds.

That may be a difficult task.

The Mahoning County commissioners bought Renaissance Place out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for $75,000 — although a check for the purchase has yet to be issued — and plans to begin moving the county’s Job and Family Services Department there in June.

Michael V. Sciortino, county auditor, has refused to issue the check for the purchase, suggesting that a number of issues, including possible liability for some $400,000 in back taxes on the property, have not been addressed.

The largest share of that tax debt is owed to the city school district.

County Prosecutor Paul Gains told The Vindicator in November that the previous owner of Renaissance Center, Southside Community Development Corp., was a nonprofit agency and the back taxes are in dispute because of that status.

Other county officials have indicated the Ohio Department of Taxation is considering an appeal to forgive those back taxes.

“They need to know we are concerned about this,” Beachum said.   “That’s too much money just to blink an eye at.”

“We are expecting to be paid,” said board member Jamael Tito Brown, also a member of the finance committee.   The board should have gone on record earlier on this, he said.

A common pleas court ruling related to the case and issued in November found that the county purchase of the property doesn’t require the county to assume or accept any debt obligation to the holder of any lien, mortgage or encumbrance on the Renaissance Center.

School district Treasurer Carolyn Funk told the finance committee that there is no action the board can take on its own to go after the taxes.

The county auditor has the responsibility to protect the school district’s interest on the taxes, she said.

The committee asked Funk to send Sciortino a letter asking that he take action to recover the district’s money.

Youngstown schools' budget deficit is expected to reach nearly $11 million this year and the state has placed the district under fiscal emergency, appointing a financial oversight commission to monitor spending and find ways to reduce costs.

Roger Nehls, chairman of that commission, has said repeatedly that improving the district’s revenue stream is an important part of overcoming the deficit.

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