Auditing mistake resulted in taxpayers paying over $600K for levy they didn’t vote on

Local News

The Mahoning County Auditor's Office found the mistake after a taxpayer called and asked what was going on

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Taxpayers in Mahoning County were handing over money they weren’t supposed to be paying for four years — until someone asked why.

“A taxpayer called and said, ‘I saw the ballot language on the November library levy and we’re excluded. We did not vote on that levy, we were excluded. We did not vote on that levy but I’m paying the library tax. What’s going on?'” said Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham.

According to the Mahoning County Auditor’s Office, people in nine districts have been mistakenly paying taxes for a 2014 levy renewal for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

The problem is, in 2014, Ohio lawmakers changed the library’s taxing districts.

“So what that meant was instead of the only library districts in 2010 being all of Mahoning County, it was Mahoning County excluding these nine tax districts,” Meacham said.

However, those nine districts were assessed in the library tax anyway even though the levy wasn’t on their ballot.

“The auditor was supposed to stop assessing library levy taxes on those taxing districts and that did not happen,” Meacham said.

The auditor’s office said the errors were made in 2013 and 2014 before Meacham, the current auditor, took over.

“I’m disappointed this happened and it wasn’t brought to light ’til now,” Meacham said. “If we had someone come forward and gave us an idea, we would have corrected it right away.”

“I just feel terrible that anything associated with the library levy happened that wasn’t absolutely accurate,” said library director Aimee Fifarek.

Even though taxpayers from those nine districts didn’t get to vote on the levy, they were taxed more than $600,000.

However, the library didn’t gain any extra money because of it.

“All 58 were taxed and the library got this amount of money,” Fifarek said. “If those nine districts were excluded, they, of course, would not have paid that library tax but the other 49 districts would have paid a little bit more.”

There are about 3,300 lots within the nine affected districts
– Tax year 2015: $148,155 overpaid, averaging to $44.92 per lot
– Tax year 2016: $150,382 overpaid, averaging to $45.47 per lot
– Tax year 2017: $166,113 overpaid, averaging to $50.26 per lot
– Tax year 2018: $166,887 overpaid, averaging to $50.31 per lot

Meacham said according to state law, there’s no way to reimburse anyone.

The error has been fixed and those nine districts will no longer be charged for the levy.

A statement will be sent to taxpayers who were affected by the mistake. For more information, contact the auditor’s office at 330-740-2010 ext. 7571.

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