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Property values, sales tax revenue soar in Mahoning County

Meacham issues State of the County report

Staff photo/ Ed Runyan... Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham shows a copy of his State of the County report. It is available at the Mahoning auditor’s website and linked to this story at vindy.com.

Mahoning County Auditor’s Report: State of the County

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham gave a “State of the County” presentation at the commissioners’ reorganization meeting last week after completing the countywide mass revaluation of property.

The presentation included a 29-page report his office produced, which is available on the auditor’s website. It contains charts, graphs, listings of revenues collected and amounts spent in recent years from the county’s sales taxes, including the recently added road tax. It also contains payroll amounts and details on the 2024 mass reappraisal that recently was completed, which showed an average increase of 38% in property values.

Meacham said the new revaluation increase is “kind of off the charts compared to what we’ve seen in the past.”

He also announced that every Mahoning County property owner will be able to go to the auditor’s website around Tuesday to see what their new property tax amounts will be as a result of the revaluation.

“County government is basically funded by our permissive sales tax,” Meacham said as he started his 26-minute presentation in the commissioners hearing room in the basement of the Mahoning County Courthouse.

A chart in his report shows a steady growth of sales tax revenue from 2019 through 2023 — $43.3 million in 2019 to $65.7 million in 2023 — including an additional $11 million in 2023 from the road and bridge tax approved by county voters in November 2021.

Another chart shows the county’s general fund surplus growing from $16.4 million in 2019 to $31.7 million in 2023. It also shows the surplus in the criminal justice fund growing from $5.1 million in 2019 to $24.6 million in 2023. The justice fund was created in 2015 to separate the money used to run most of the county offices from the departments that handle criminal justice — the sheriff’s office, jail, the coroner’s office, 911 center and prosecutor’s office.

The general fund’s expenditures grew from $36.9 million in 2019 to $42.2 million in 2022. “But we do have a nice cash balance,” Meacham said of the surplus.

Another chart shows that about $8 million of the new road and bridges sales tax revenue was allocated and distributed in 2022 for road and bridge projects. Townships apply to the Mahoning County Engineer’s Office for specific projects, and the engineer’s office decides if the project meets the requirements, Meacham said.

“I think if you are driving around on our roads, you can see that it is already making a difference,” Meacham said.

Another chart shows the county collected about $286 million in property taxes in 2022. School districts get about 59% of that. County departments with levies such as Children Services, Developmental Disabilities and the Mental Health and Recovery Board receive about $55 million.

The townships get about $41 million, and special districts such as the Mill Creek MetroParks and libraries get about $15 million. The cities get the other $8 million.

The county has 1,473 employees, and the total payroll has climbed from $81.9 million in 2021 to $89.3 million in 2023.

2024 COUNTY REAL ESTATE REAPPRAISAL

Meacham said every six years, the county is required to conduct a general appraisal of all the property parcels — of which there are 164,000 — in Mahoning County.

“The goal of this is equalization, to make sure every taxpayer is being treated fairly regarding all of the other property owners,” Meacham said.

Mahoning County has used the same local appraisal company for years. The information collected is sent to the Ohio Department of Taxation to approve or not approve, Meacham said.

A smaller type of property revaluation (a 3-year) was carried out in 2020, which showed an overall property valuation increase of 13.1%. The newest revaluation in 2023 showed an increase of 38% in the property values.

Another chart shows the average increase in property values in the 62 taxing districts in the county. It shows that areas with lower valued housing stock, such as Youngstown, Coitsville Township and Campbell, “had a significant increase in their assessed values. Why is that? We know that in some of these communities, you may have been able to buy a house for $20,000.

Well, those $20,000 houses are not there anymore. Sometimes those $20,000 houses are $35,000 or $40,000 houses, for example. So in absolute dollars, it’s not that much, but the percentage of the former asking price or sales price and the current one, it’s a lot,” Meacham said.

He showed in another chart how Mahoning County’s 38% increase in property values compares to other counties in the state.

“You’ll see we are kind of right in with everybody else,” he said. “Assessed value increases are not limited just to Mahoning County. It’s statewide.”

He showed that counties near Mahoning have similar increases: Trumbull 35%, Geauga 30% and Ashtabula 32%. Columbiana County did not comparably provide the data, Meacham said.

To explain the leveling effect of a 1976 property tax law called House Bill 920, Meacham showed examples of levies in which the amount of millage required to raise the same amount of revenue dropped.

He said H.B. 920 is a law that says “As assessed values go up, tax rates go down.”

H.B. 920 is intended to limit the amount of property taxes a property owner pays as a result of rising property values.

One levy in Austintown, for instance, went from a 3-mill levy to a 2.1-mill levy as a result of the new revaluation, “but the money generated by the levy stays the same,” Meacham said.

Another chart showed a sampling of taxing districts and showed that in one taxing district in Canfield Township, the effective tax rate was 55.2 mills in 2022, but it dropped to 44.2 in tax year 2023 “because the assessed value (of the real estate) went up, so the effective tax rates have to (down) go to equalize the amount (of money) every one of these levies is producing.”

During the Great Recession of 2008-2010, there were decreases in average property values, he noted.

“This is unprecedented to have sales values increase as much as they have,” he said of the 38% increase. As Meacham has stressed, an increase in property values does not automatically translate into an increase in property taxes because of the leveling effects of H.B. 920.

He explained that in 1977, another new law was approved that created what is called the “20-mill floor” to benefit schools. The 20-mill floor is millage a property owner pays that can increase as a result of rising property values.

The 20-mill floor is similar to what is called “inside millage,” which is up to 10 mills of the millage a property owner pays that can increase as a result of rising property values.

“The county gets a little share of it. The townships can get it. Anyone can go up to 10 mills without voting,” Meacham said.

He showed a chart indicating that the Jackson-Milton school district, for instance, will receive an additional 5.4 mills of funding in 2024 as a result of the 20-mill floor, and Sebring will get an additional 4.9 mills. It will produce an additional $1.4 million in revenue per year for Jackson Milton, $314,700 per year for Sebring schools and $2.7 million more per year for the Poland school district.

Meacham said the Ohio General Assembly considered legislation in 2023 that would have provided property-tax exemptions for Ohioans, but no such measure passed.

“I thought it would have behooved them to do something for taxpayers,” but they did not, he said.

When Commissioner David Ditzler asked if the result is that the “State Legislature screwed us,” Meacham said, “They did nothing.”

Meacham’s 29-page report is available at www.mahoningcountyoh.gov/DocumentCenter/View/48791/Mahoning-County—State-of-the-County-2024

Mahoning County Auditor’s Report: State of the County

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