Jump in property values raises worry over tax issues on ballot
Officials with communities and school districts with tax issues on the Nov. 7 ballot say they are concerned the tentative Mahoning County property reappraisal could impact adversely their requests for money from voters.
“Yeah, the revaluations are going to hurt,” Poland Township Trustee Eric Ungaro said. “They’re going to hurt everywhere. The revaluations have really gone up.”
Poland Township has a 0.98-mill, five-year additional levy for police service on the ballot that is the combination of two expiring tax issues.
Ungaro said people “tend to support safety services,” but the tentative property appraisal is “not going to help.”
Austintown fire Chief Andy Frost said the tentative appraisal will “have a huge impact negatively” on the township’s proposed 3-mill additional levy for a continuous period of time for fire services.
“Folks are strapped, and we understand that,” Frost said. “We’ll have to live with that situation we’re given.”
Austintown saw one of the county’s highest proposed reappraisals at 42.8 percent.
County Auditor Ralph Meacham released the tentative valuations Sept. 13 that show residential property owners will see a countywide average increase in value of 38 percent. Final property tax amounts will be available in mid-January.
In Ohio, 41 of the 88 counties are either undergoing a reappraisal or triennial update for tax year 2023. In a chart provided by Meacham’s office of 33 of those 41 counties, Mahoning’s increase is tied with Butler for fourth-highest, trailing only Franklin at 42 percent and Ashland and Morrow, both at 41 percent.
Meacham said he is required under state law to release the tentative market values for the tax year now for taxpayers to review, and it wasn’t his intention to impact tax levies on the ballot.
IT’S A REQUIREMENT
Ohio law requires all county auditors to establish a current value of real property once every six years and a triennial update halfway between the times of the reappraisals, Meacham said.
“We didn’t disguise we’d have a revaluation, but I didn’t anticipate the housing values would be this high,” he said. “The timing of the reval is prescribed by the state.”
Meacham said: “Some of these levies are sizable. It’s probably not the most auspicious time to do it because of the reval, but we’ve been preparing it for a few years. There’s so much commotion this time because we haven’t had a property value increase like this before.”
Meacham said, “It will be harder to pass levies in November.”
The revaluation doesn’t mean everyone will see a property tax increase, he said.
House Bill 920, approved in 1976, keeps inflation from significantly increasing the amount of property taxes a homeowner pays, regardless of whether property values increase or decrease.
Meacham said he expects about one-third of homes in the county to see an increase in taxes, about one-third to stay the same and one-third to drop.
“We don’t know what the new values will be at this time, but we’re still getting calls every day about people thinking their taxes are going up,” he said.
Austintown’s Frost said: “The problem is the misconception about what this revaluation means. What we need is more clarity.”
Just because the average homeowner in Austintown is seeing a 42.8 percent increase in their property value, Frost said that doesn’t mean they’re going to pay a tax increase even close to that size. That’s because the revaluation doesn’t change the available money pool from which levy funds would be drawn, he said.
LARGEST TAX ISSUES
The two largest tax issues on the Nov. 7 ballot are for the school districts in Poland and Canfield, which are both seeking bond issues of more than $100 million each to build new schools.
Craig Hockenberry, Poland schools superintendent, said: “There’s never a good time for working people who live in a great community to pay for new taxes. We knew it was going to be difficult. We’ve seen some relief with inflation, and then we get hit with this.”
Hockenberry said the district knew there was going to be a tentative property revaluation around the time it was seeking to pass the bond issue.
“But we had no idea it was going to be this high,” he said. “No one wants to raise people’s taxes. If voters say yes, that’s great. If no, we have another option. Everyone will be impacted differently. The good news is that when people sell, it’s helpful to them. Home values went up in Poland in part because of our great schools.”
Joe Knoll, Canfield schools superintendent, didn’t respond to requests to comment on the tentative county reappraisal’s impact on his district’s bond issue.
The city of Struthers has a 3-mill, five-year renewal levy for street resurfacing on the Nov. 7 ballot. It also has one of the county’s highest tentative reappraisals at 51.3 percent.
Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller said the reappraisal raises “some concerns” about the levy’s passage, but she believes it will be successful.
“Most of our voters are educated, and they understand it’s an important levy for us because we don’t have any other way to pave streets,” she said. “There’s always concern about passage even if this didn’t happen. If there was a new levy there would be a larger concern.”
She added: “People are talking about the (reappraisal). Like everything else, it’s going up.”
The state Legislature is considering a bill that would modify procedures used to conduct property tax sales assessments because of the tentative reappraisals.
If approved, the Ohio Homeowners Relief Act would put a pause on the valuation increases.
It recently passed the House Ways and Means Committee and awaits a vote by the full House.
“With detrimental inflation and other costs on our taxpayers, it’s critical we avoid having another burdensome tax increase on Ohio families here in Mahoning County,” said state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield. “I’m pushing to get this issue resolved to provide property tax relief for people of the Valley and across Ohio.”
Staff writer Dan Pompili contributed to this article.