East Liverpool levy funds would target nuisance properties

EAST LIVERPOOL – City council approved numerous pieces of legislation Monday, the most notable being a new levy whose proceeds are intended to go toward demolition of dilapidated structures in the city.

The 2-mill levy will officially be listed as for “current expenses” when it appears on the November ballot, but the estimated $168,100 that it will raise annually over its five-year span is slated for tearing down abandoned nuisance structures, say council members. It will add $24.50 in taxes to the owner of a $40,000 house, according to the county auditor’s office.

Attendees shared their feelings about the levy during public comments prior to council’s vote, including Kathy Smith of Pennsylvania Avenue, a city native who has recently returned following a 21-year absence. With a background in real estate and property management, Smith says the key to East Liverpool neighborhood improvement is for the city to enforce existing ordinances and hold property owners accountable for the condition of their homes and rental properties.

“Until the city begins working with neighborhoods and individuals who want to affect real change by enforcing codes and laws currently on the books, there will never be enough funding for demolition of dilapidated structures, because that is all that will exist,” she said.

During the vote on first reading, Tom Cunningham acknowledged the additional tax burden the levy will place on homeowners, especially in light of the high unemployment rate among city residents, but concluded that it’s a necessary step before voting yes. “I think it’s the only way to start moving and clean up the neighborhoods,” he said.

Ryan Stovall also commented, agreeing with Cunningham’s sentiments, but pointing out that many structures in the city are rental properties, not family homes owned by their occupants, and that such property owners will share the tax burden with homeowners if the levy passes in November.

Following the unanimous vote, Sherrie Curtis assured attendees that an ordinance will be passed prior to the upcoming election that will specifically earmark revenues from the levy for the purpose of tearing down dilapidated structures. With a list of 140 such structures compiled, Curtis urged residents to support the levy effort. She suggested that, in time, taxpayers could recoup their investments as conditions improve with the abandoned structures cleared away as property values begin to rise.

Also approved for inclusion on the November ballot is an additional 4-mill police protection levy that would raise an estimated $336,400 annually over its five years. It would cost the owner of a $40,000 home an additional $49 each year in city taxes and $98 for the owner of an $80,000 home. The measure passed with little controversy, as all in attendance agreed on the importance of keeping enough officers on city streets.