What#8217;s happening with my tax dollars?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Last week, many Lawrence Countians lined up at the window of the county treasurer’s office to perform a twice yearly rite of land ownership: They paid the first-half-year property taxes.

County residents shell out approximately $21.6 million a year in taxes for 52,000 parcels of land. Where does the money go and what changes awaited taxpayers this year?

What do they do with your money?

Email newsletter signup

The bulk of the money collected from property taxes goes to the county’s seven public school districts. Roughly 77.7 percent of each dollar paid is distributed to schools.

“That’s the average,” Lawrence County Auditor Ray. T. Dutey explained. “It could be a little higher or a little lower in some places, depending on where you live and if there is, say, a school bond levy there. But 77.7 percent is the average.”

County offices split the next largest slice of the property tax pie. Roughly nine and a half cents of every dollar goes to county government.

“It goes into the county’s general fund,” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said. “The largest part of our revenues actually comes from the sales tax. It’s odd that people pay their property taxes to the county but the county really gets very little of it.”

The county’s 14 townships receive 4.4 cents of every dollar paid in real estate taxes. The Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities receives a little more than four cents of every dollar collected.

That amounts to approximately $900,000 a year.

“If you looked at percentages, the amount we get is less than 25 percent of our total budget,” Lawrence County MR/DD Superintendent Paul Mollette said.

While that agency does receive some state and federal funding, MR/DD officials rely heavily on a 2.5 mil replacement levy to help provide services to its 500-plus clients. This spring, voters will be asked to give approval to that levy. Mollette stressed this is not a new call for new funds, just a continuation of necessary funding.

“This is a replacement levy for a levy that has been in effect for 14 years. There is no new millage. It is a levy on current property values.”

Municipalities share 3.67 percent of the real estate tax pie. The rest, roughly .71 percent, goes to the Lawrence County Health Department.

The business of taxing businesses

When business owners got their property tax bills at the beginning of the year, they found a less-than-welcome surprise inside: The amount they were asked to pay was 10 percent higher than the amount the previous year. The reason for this had everything to do with state finances.

In the past, the state paid 10 percent of property taxes for some businesses and industries. The state paid the money to the counties, and counties took the 10 percent off the tax bills for those businesses. Last year state legislators overhauled the state’s tax system. Amended Substitute House Bill 66 put a stop to the 10 percent reimbursements, or “rollback”, as it was called. Dutey said he and his staff have received only a few inquiries about the change.

“Most want to know why their taxes have gone up,” Dutey said. “Their taxes have not gone up; the state is no longer paying that 10 percent. I hope people understand this is nothing the county has done. None of the political subdivisions of the county are going to see any increase in revenues from this. This was an act of the state legislature.”

The change went into effect Jan. 1. The bill was actually signed into law in July 2005.

For more information about this subject, inquiries may be made via the Internet to http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/billdocuments.html.

Complaint department

Dutey said people who have complaints about their property assessments have until March 31 to file a complaint with county officials.

He emphasized that people may not complain about how much money they have to pay; their argument must center on what their property assessment is, or, how much the county says their house is worth and whether they think that figure is accurate.

When a man’s mobile home is his castle

The deadline for paying taxes on mobile homes is March 31. According to the auditor’s office, there are 6,700 registered

mobile homes in Lawrence County, accounting for $ 624,000 annually in taxes.

A little help from your friends

Those who wish to pursue a homestead exemption have until June 1 to fill out the necessary paperwork.

“Even if you have already paid your first-half-year taxes, if you come in and claim a homestead exemption we will take it off your second-half-year taxes,” Dutey said.

The homestead exemption reduces taxes for those over 65 years of age whose annual income is $25,400 or less. It also reduces taxes for disabled individuals whose non-disability annual income is $25,400 of less. The person who seeks such an exemption must own his or her own home.

The homestead exemption allows for three categories of reduction: For those taxpayers whose annual income is $13,100 or less, the homestead exemption will reduce their school bond levy cost by $5,400 or by 75 percent, whichever is less.

For taxpayers whose income falls between $13,100 and $19,200, the homestead exemption will reduce the school bond levy tax bill by the lesser of $3,300 or by 60 percent.

For taxpayers whose income is above $19,200, the homestead exemption will reduce the school bond levy tax bill by $1,000 or by 25 percent, again, whichever is less.

In Lawrence County, 3,587 households now claim the homestead exemption. Those who want more information about the homestead exemption may call the Lawrence County Auditor’s Office at 533-4310.