Mahoning real-estate tax collections increase in spite of lower valuations

Published: Thu, October 11, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken


Despite a decline in real-estate valuation, Mahoning County’s total real-estate tax collections have risen slightly over the past year.

Recently released figures show an increase of almost $3 million in collections for the entire county over last year’s figures.

County officials offered a variety of explanations, rang-ing from an improving economy to a state law that protects the value of voted real-estate tax levies, to newly voted levies and more aggressive tax collection efforts.

First-half collections rose from $107,829,229 last year to $109,349,033 this year.

Second-half collections rose from $103,866,443 last year to $105,314,114 this year.

The gains occurred despite a 4.2 percent decline in the value of all county real estate and a 7.4 percent decline in the value of residential real estate over the last six years in Mahoning County, as reported in the most recent reappraisal that was concluded last year.

“I don’t think it’s surprising. I think it’s a reflection of the status of the economy that’s rebounding,” said county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino. “The economy, in my view, is the greatest factor” explaining the increase in collections, he said. “If people are put to work, then they can pay their taxes.”

County Treasurer Dan Yemma said, “I don’t think it’s a total surprise because of the way property tax is calculated” in Ohio.

Yemma attributed much of the gain in collections to Ohio House Bill 920, which protects school districts and local communities from revenue losses from voted millage due to property devaluation within their jurisdictions. Most millage is in the voted millage category, he said.

There is no such protection for revenues from unvoted millage, however, noted Anthony P. Magnetta, budget analyst in the county auditor’s office.

The improved collections are “also a sign of the economy recovering somewhat,” Yemma said.

“I believe that we’ve seen that in our office as far as the number of people that are getting on [installment] payment plans” to pay their delinquent real-estate taxes, Yemma said.

An increase in new construction, spurred by the improving economy, together with newly voted tax levies also have contributed to increased collections, he said.

Many homes have lost value, “but yet the people are still paying their property taxes,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

That’s attributable “to more jobs in the Valley” and an improving local economy, partly due to the sales success of the Lordstown-built Cruze and the shale drilling boom, she added.

“Our office has been very diligent in following and trying to make arrangements to get people back paying taxes, even if it’s not paying them entirely current,” Yemma said.

The newly created countywide land bank and its foreclosure process has spurred some landowners to pay taxes to avoid a land-bank foreclosure, he said. The land bank’s goal is to return tax-delinquent properties to productive use.

Another factor is that online payments have increased since that option became available here 2 1/2 years ago, he said.

“I’m going to verify that the auditor’s office sees these collections coming in — $105 million in collections. I will balance down to that penny the entire collection process,” Magnetta said. “It’s a pretty time-consuming process,” he said, adding that he will reconcile any differences between the treasurer’s calculations and his calculations.

After verifying and reconciling the treasurer’s calculations, Magnetta said he will send each city, village, township and school district its final installment from this year’s real-estate tax collections later this month.

Those that requested advance payments received installments in August and September based on the second-half tax collection monies that had come in, he said.

Revenues to those individual entities will be based on collections within their jurisdictions, but it is too early to tell how much in total distributions each community or school district will get this year, Magnetta said.

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