Trumbull officials wary of tax raises

Commissioners vote down moratorium on replacement levies

WARREN — An effort by Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko to have commissioners vote on a moratorium against any replacement levy that would increase property taxes failed in a 2-1 vote during last week’s Trumbull County commissioners meeting.

Frenchko was responding to a discussion fellow commissioners Denny Malloy and Mauro Cantalamessa had May 21 with Senior Levy Administrator Diane Siskowic-Jurkovic during their weekly workshop about the possible replacement of the current 0.75-mill senior levy.

Frenchko did not attend the workshop.

The senior levy proposal would replace the current 0.75-mill levy with a new one that, if passed, would base the collection of funds on current property tax values, instead of the values established in 2005 when the senior levy was first passed.

Basing collections on current property values would allow the senior levy to collect more than $1 million in property taxes without raising the millage.

Collection under the current program brings in $2.5 million per year. The money is used for a variety of senior programs, including programming at senior centers, providing transportation for seniors, and providing in-home care, among others.

The passage of a replacement levy would allow the expansion of programs provided by the senior levy, according to Siskowic-Jurkovic.

Discussion about a new senior levy is taking place now because the senior levy must be voted on by county residents every five years. Collection of the current levy is scheduled to end on Jan. 1, 2026, unless voters approve a new levy.

Siskowic-Jurkovic said the county will have three opportunities to place a senior levy proposal on the ballot if a proposal is placed on the November ballot. If it fails, the county will have opportunities to place the issue on the ballot in the 2025 primary election and, if necessary, on the 2025 general election ballot.

Other options for the replacement of the current levy include renewing the tax at the current level, which would fix the annual amount collected to current levels; or a combination of a renewal of the current level and also seeking passage of an additional 0.25% levy during the same election cycle.

Having the two options on the ballot at the same time would provide voters a choice to renew the current collection and then decide whether to provide increased taxes, without jeopardizing the existing amount collected.

“I don’t want to see any additional increases, period,” Frenchko said. “I would like to make a motion to put a moratorium on any replacement for additional tax levy that would exceed property taxes above what they are.”

Frenchko argued a moratorium on all replacement levies that would increase the amount currently being collected would tell the boards of every organization in Trumbull County the commissioners are united in this approach.

“We will stand against any replacement that causes an increase in residential property taxes,” she said.

Commission President Denny Malloy noted he will be attending the next senior levy commission board meeting in June, so he can hear its members’ thoughts on the possible changes.

“My thoughts are we are serving about 10% of the county’s seniors with our senior levy funds, but we will be asking 100% of our seniors to pay for any replacement,” Malloy said. “Adding any additional taxes at this point would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer funds. Seniors would have to pay additional taxes also.”

Malloy said there are a lot of seniors who do not use services paid for with senior levy funds. There also are seniors on the waiting list who have not been able to be involved with programs provided through the levy.

“I would like to look at other options,” he noted.

Malloy, however, does not want to make a blanket statement that the board will not consider any tax increase without allowing the individual programs to make their cases for the increase request.

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa also stated a vote to have a blanket rejection of all property taxes would be “…unbelievably reckless.”

“Everything must be done on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

He noted that any opposition to a senior tax increase being expressed does not mean the commissioners do not want to help the county’s oldest citizens.

“We raise more than $2.5 million a year for our seniors,” Cantalamessa said. “We do a phenomenal job for our seniors. We are committed to our seniors. There are some communities that do not have any programming for their seniors.”

However, he added, there are seniors that do not want to see their property taxes increased.

Have an interesting news story? Contact Raymond Smith by email at rsmith@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


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