Tax collections show increase
Auditor says he’s surprised by the surplus
YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham said the county’s sales tax collections last year were surprisingly good given the economic struggles brought on by the coronavirus.
“The county operates largely on sales tax revenues,” Meacham told The Vindicator after giving a “State of the County” presentation this week.
“The surprising thing to me was that we increased between 2019 and 2020 with COVID and everything else,” he said. The amount of income tax revenue in 2020 was $44.5 million, which is up 1.8 percent from the $43.65 million in 2019.
Meacham said he thinks a factor in keeping the sales tax collections up is that the internet companies are paying more each year in sales taxes to the county.
June and July collections were up a great deal over 2019 collections. Most other months were similar to 2019, according to Meacham’s presentation.
Overall, Meacham said he thinks the county is “healthy right now because there has been a cooperative effort among the elected officials to monitor their expenses and be aware that we do have limited resources.”
He said the county’s continued high bond rating from Standard and Poors indicates that the county has managed its finances well.
Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, who reminded the public during a commissioners meeting last month to shop local to help area businesses, said she will return to shopping in person when COVID-19 is no longer a concern.
She sometimes calls local stores to obtain an item. Many times they ship it to the customer for free. But if they have to obtain it from another location, she checks to make sure the local store gets credit for the sale.
The county’s general fund, which pays for many of the departments in the county, had a carryover balance of $23.1 million at the end of 2019, which was an increase of $3.6 million over the $19.5 million balance or “surplus” in 2018, Meacham said.
He does not have the figure yet for the balance at the end of 2020, but it is higher than last year’s $23.1 million, he said.
Sales tax revenues make up 38 percent of general fund revenues. Real estate taxes and intergovernmental receipts make up 25.4 percent.
Adding in the carryover in the county’s justice fund, the county had a carryover of $34.9 million in 2019, compared to $29.6 million in 2018.
The county has 1,425 full-time employees and 127 part-time employees.
Total real estate tax valuations of the county have continued to climb in recent years, rising to $4.7 billion for 2021 from $4.25 billion in 2020, an increase of 10.4 percent.
The real estate delinquency rate in the county rose from 2018 to 2019 from 17 percent to 18 percent mostly because of people not paying special assessments, such as costs charged to property owners to mow their vacant piece of property, Meacham said.
There were $17.8 million in special assessment delinquencies in 2019 compared to $15.1 million in 2018 and $10.8 million in 2017.
A big reason special assessment delinquences are increasing is because of the high number of housing demolitions taking place, Meacham said.
Total property tax distributions to Mahoning County schools rose 4.8 percent from 2017 to 2019, while township distributions rose 13.1 percent during that time. Municipality distributions rose 5 percent.
Special district distributions such as fire, water and parks districts rose 21.8 percent, and distributions to county organizations such as mental health and recovery and children services rose 8.15 percent over that time. Total distributions rose 7.2 percent.
Voted increases in levies is a reason for the increases, Meacham said.
The school districts receive 59 percent of property tax distributions, county distributions make up 20 percent, townships get 14 percent, special districts get 5 percent and municipalities get 2 percent. Those percentages have not changed much in several years, Meacham said.