Mahoning County commissioners seek tax relief from state

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County commissioners want state lawmakers to act to offset rising property taxes.

The board sent a letter Thursday to both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly “outlining the profound impact of these tax hikes on residents and the urgent need for reform.”

A news release issued by the commissioners office states the letter expressed concerns that residents — especially senior citizens — have conveyed to the board about the potential impact of “skyrocketing property taxes” caused by revaluation.

Many are facing displacement from their homes because they cannot afford the increase, the news release says.

“The Commissioners underscored the detrimental effects of legally mandated reappraisals that have inflated property valuations by up to 60%. The Commissioners highlighted the effects of inequitable property tax assessment and allocation, citing its adverse impact on the quality of life and hindrance to growth within Mahoning County and across the state,” the letter states.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said the burden on senior citizens has been particularly profound, and he fears that they and many other county residents will begin to suffer even more.

“Many senior citizens already have to decide between taking their prescription drugs or putting food on their table,” he said. “With the increase in property taxes in Mahoning County now, I do not want to see residents having to make a choice between paying their taxes or keeping their homes.”

In January, Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham gave a presentation to commissioners about the county’s sales tax revenues, funding allocation, and property valuation and subsequent tax increases.

State law requires a general appraisal of all 164,000 property parcels in Mahoning County every six years. The county then sends the information to the Ohio Department of Taxation to approve or not.

Meacham told commissioners in January that a smaller three-year revaluation conducted in 2020 showed an overall increase of 13.1%. The 2023 revaluation showed an increase of 38%, which Meacham called “kind of off the charts.” Commissioners seem to agree.

“We as a board of commissioners are asking the State of Ohio to reform property tax valuation in the state. It’s time,” Traficanti said. “They’ve tried three different times and House Bill 920 is broken. It has not kept increases down for property valuation. It’s wea, and it needs to be revamped.”

Traficanti was referring to a 1976 law that seeks to balance tax rates and property values. As Meacham explained in January, the law is supposed to limit the property taxes an owner pays as a result of rising property values. “As assessed values go up, tax rates go down,” he told commissioners.

The press release states that the letter also called into question the property-tax-based formula for funding Ohio’s public schools.

“Of significant concern is the strain placed on public education, as rising taxes impede critical funding sources such as levies and bond issues which are vital for sustaining high-quality education,” the statement reads.

The news release states that commissioners specifically addressed what they called an outdated method of funding K-12 education, wherein 68% of property taxes are allocated for public school funding, along with profits from the Ohio Lottery and sports gambling taxes.

“The Commissioners referenced the landmark 1997 Ohio Supreme Court ruling in DeRolph v. Ohio, which deemed the reliance on property taxes for school funding unconstitutional. Today, 27 years later, little has been done,” the release states.

The letter also asserts that “the basic inequities of the system continue to plague public schools, and we now rank 22nd in the nation in quality of education.”

Commissioners called for an overhaul of school funding, and a “substantial and permanent” increase to the Homestead Act exemption to give seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities more financial relief.

Commissioners also proposed a 3% annual cap on property tax increases unless a property changes ownership.

Reporter Ed Runyan contributed to this report.

Have an interesting story? Contact Dan Pompili at dpompili@vindy.com


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