Journal Opinion: Act on Higher Property Taxes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The increase in the values of residential properties has been a boon to those seeking to sell their houses. For those retaining their properties, it’s more of a mixed blessing.

Property owners across Ohio report significant increases in their property taxes. According to the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, which has written state legislators urging action, legally mandated appraisals have inflated property valuations by up to 60%. Among the detrimental effects of “unaffordable property tax increases,” they say, is the potential displacement of seniors and low-income residents from their homes.

“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 board says. They attribute the core issue to the outdated method of funding K-12 education in Ohio, where 68% of property taxes are directed toward public schools.

Commissioners emphasized the need for a permanent increase in the homestead exemption to provide relief for seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities, as well as a 3% cap on property tax increases within a calendar year unless property changes hands.

Meanwhile, the advocacy group Policy Matters Ohio advocates a “circuit breaker” that would kick in if the property tax bill of a homeowner exceeded a threshold percentage of income, with the state then picking up a portion or all of the tax payment above that threshold. 

Since the Ohio Supreme Court issued its 1997 ruling DeRolph v. Ohio, which deemed the reliance on property taxes for school funding unconstitutional, state government has done little to fix the system, other than to expand opportunities for vouchers to fund nonpublic schools.   

“For years the state legislature has sat on their hands and failed to create any substantial legislation that would improve the quality of life for the residents in Mahoning County or the state of Ohio. The time is now,” the commissioners said.

We agree. We do not begrudge the need to raise revenue through taxes. But government cannot allow a high rate increase that imperils property owners’ ability to remain in homes they have owned for decades or otherwise adversely affect their quality of life.