Auditor Discovers Error in Library Levy Collection

YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning County Auditor’s Office announced Monday it had uncovered and corrected an error resulting in the improper collection of $631,537 in nine tax districts in Mahoning County.

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County was notified by the auditor that an error in the assessment of the library’s levy occurred during the 2015 to 2018 tax years, resulting in the improper collections.

Discovery of the error, which Auditor Ralph Meacham said occurred during the term of his predecessor, Michael Sciortino, came as a result of a taxpayer inquiry on levy language in the Nov. 5 election. The auditor’s office determined that the levy, which was passed in 2014, was incorrectly assessed to nine Mahoning County taxing districts.

Meacham has affirmed that the library received the correct disbursements from the levy during this time period and played no part in causing the error.

“We were distressed to learn that an error impacted the correct assessment of the library’s levy. We care deeply about our community and want every voter to be confident they can have a voice in our service. We are relieved to know that Mr. Meacham and his staff were able to determine that the library did not receive any funds inappropriately,” Aimee Fifarek, PLYMC executive director, said.

“We thank the Auditor’s Office for the research they did to identify the matter and for the thoroughness and transparency with which it was addressed,” she added.

The library received the correct amounts during this period from the levy as stipulated in levy language, but those collections were spread out over all 58 taxing districts in the county rather than the 49 that were eligible, Meacham said.

The matter is related to redistricting resulting from the Ohio General Assembly’s Amended Bill 321. The bill, which passed in 2012, provided that properties located in Mahoning County, but within the school boundaries of Alliance City School District, Columbiana Exempted School District, Hubbard Exempted School District, and Leetonia Exempted Village School District, were to be excluded from this library levy.

Certified copies of the resolution were ordered to be provided to the Mahoning County Auditor at that time, along with the Mahoning County Board of Elections, Mahoning County Commissioners, Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, and all adjacent libraries, the auditor’s office said. A document should have been sent by the County Auditor’s Office to the Ohio Department of Taxation requesting the establishment of the new and amended library district on state taxation records. The county auditor’s ffice has no record of this document being sent, and the Ohio Department of Taxation has no record of it being received.

In tax year 2015 the overpayment in these districts totaled $148,155, for an average of $44.92 per parcel. In tax year 2016 the overpayment in these districts totaled $150,382, for an average of $45.47 per parcel. In tax year 2017, the overpayment in these districts totaled $166,113, for an average of $50.26 per parcel. In tax year 2018, the overpayment in these districts totaled $166,887, for an average of $50.31 per parcel.

Consultation with the Ohio Department of Taxation found this was a “fundamental error,” according to a release from Meacham’s office. By rule, the procedure for correcting a fundamental error is to correct the records going forward. There is no provision for correcting past taxing periods, making refunds or providing credits.

Library records indicate that at the time of the 2014 levy, all appropriate agencies had been notified of the redistricting. The library has been assured by the auditor’s office that the error has been corrected and will not affect assessments for the levy that just passed on Nov. 5.

Meacham said he regretted the error and that its discovery and correction gave him little comfort.

“Since taking office in March of 2015, I have restructured the office to increase efficiencies, accountability, transparency and accuracy,” Meacham said. “As in the past, and going forward, these qualities will be paramount in delivering services to taxpayers.”

“We are glad this matter has been rectified and will continue to make good fiscal management a priority as we dedicate ourselves to providing everyone in Mahoning County with exceptional library service,” Fifarek said.

Information will be mailed to the taxpayers who were negatively affected by this oversight. Anyone wishing to discuss this further can call the auditor’s office at 330 740 2010, ext. 7571.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.