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Increasing property values bring positive ripple effects


Published: Fri, September 22, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

One of the most reliable indicators of the economic health of any community can be measured in the trend lines of the total worth of its residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural properties.

Using that gauge, many communities throughout the Mahoning Valley find themselves in much better shape today than in the recent past, according to results released this week from state-mandated checkups of property values conducted by county auditors’ offices. The results speak well for a slow but steady improvement in the overall image of the region as a more inviting place to live and work.

Data culled from multiyear inspections of more than 300,000 parcels of land and properties in the two counties are encouraging indeed.

In Mahoning County, Auditor Ralph Meacham this week reported an overall $150 million increase in residential property value since the last reevaluation in 2011 for an increase of 2 percent. In Trumbull County, Auditor Adrian Biviano said real-estate reappraisals show an overall 3 percent increase over the past six years.

Biviano called the results “a great thing.” Meacham said the new valuation report “shows there is still some vitality in this marketplace.”

The auditors’ optimism is well placed. The improvements, though seemingly slight, represent a dramatic rebound from the last property reevaluations completed in 2011.

In that year’s report issued when the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was just beginning to ease showed the total market value of residential real estate had declined by 7.4 percent in Mahoning County and by 7.5 percent in Trumbull County.

The positive ripple effects of the turnaround in values spread from the real-estate market to schools and communities and to those marketing the Valley to would be economic developers.

For homeowners and property owners, the increases in valuation raise the potential for profitable resales. They also enrich personal and community pride in demonstrating that neighborhoods and communities are growing more attractive on the sellers’ market.

For school districts, which reap the biggest taxation rewards from higher property values, as well as local governments and service agencies such as library systems and mass-transit authorities, the upward bounce can allow them to operate more efficiently and without reaching out to burdened taxpayers for higher millage.

RISING VALUES AND TAXES

One down side, of course, from higher valuations may be tucked inside property owners’ tax statements next year in the form of higher taxes due. It is important, however, to note not all property value improvements automatically translate into higher taxes. That’s because many voted real-estate tax levies are designed to generate a constant amount of annual revenue over their lives regardless of fluctuations in property values.

For those that do fluctuate with the ups and downs of official values, the bump gives school districts, communities and public-service entities that rely on levy millage an opportunity to consider lowering the tax rate or using any extra revenue for capital-improvements, infrastructure enhancements or other improvement projects that benefit the greater good.

Additional revenue, however, must not be seen by any keepers of the public purse as an opportunity to engage in frivolous and fiscally irresponsible spending frenzies. We can virtually guarantee that taxpayers will be watching closely – and rightfully so.

Of course, not all communities in the Valley are reaping the rewards of rising land values. In some areas, particularly in our older and industrial cities, values continue to plummet. In Youngstown, for example, residential property values fell 13 percent in the newest report, only a slight improvement from the 19 percent decline in the 2011 report.

For those communities, neighborhood improvement organizations and community development agencies have their work cut out for them in continuing to demolish blocks and blocks of dilapidated properties and in working tirelessly to promote redevelopment projects.

Overall, however, the 2017 property reevaluation reports reflect well on our region’s comeback from the colossal free-fall we took during the Great Recession and the years after it.


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