Status on tax exempts in view

LISBON – The Columbiana County Auditor’s Office intends to review the tax-exempt status of 1,015 parcels of land to determine which ones remain eligible for the exemption.

County commissioners have given Auditor Nancy Milliken the authorization to hire the appraisal firm of John G. Clemingshaw Inc. to perform the review for $18,929.

“This is something we’ve been wanting to do, and you should do it every few years anyway,” Milliken said.

Government agencies and non-profit organizations, groups such as churches, charities and service clubs, are exempt from paying property taxes. Milliken said her office needs to perform periodic checks to determine if any of the property owned by these agencies and groups is being used to generate a profit, such as a church that may have opened a day care facility in its basement.

The decision comes a month after the Journal ran a story about how the county Port Authority owed $706,992 in property taxes on land officials believe should be exempt. The story also noted how state Rep. Nick Barborak was crafting a bill to make it easier financially for applicants seeking tax-exempt status.

Milliken said she was not prompted to action by the story but because funding in her real estate collections had increased to where they can afford to have the review conducted now.

She said a review of exemptions is normally conducted during the countywide property reappraisals performed every six years, with the last reappraisal completed in 2010. So why not wait until the next reappraisal in 2016?

“We have the money to do it now,” Milliken explained, adding the time is also right because 2013 is the midpoint between reappraisals when her office is required by the state to update property values in the county.

“This is the triennial update year, so we thought it would be a good time to do it,” she said.

The review is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 15. “We’ll do it township by township, with the (deciding factor) being whether it’s an income-producing property,” Milliken said.