County to fight $3M WCI tax bill

WARREN – County Auditor Adrian Biviano plans to challenge in court a state ruling that would cause $3 million in personal property taxes overpaid by the former WCI Steel to be refunded by Howland Township, Warren, Warren Township, and Warren and Howland school districts.

The legal maneuvering, it’s hoped by Biviano, would bring some relief to those affected by what he says is an unfair situation: a defunct steel mill or its successors trying to recoup tangible personal property taxes, which no longer exist in Ohio, for a period or more than 10 years ago.

”I just don’t think it’s right,” said Biviano. ”Giving back something from 13 years ago for something that doesn’t exist on a tax that doesn’t exist, it’s not right.”

County commissioners on Wednesday hired an attorney from Canfield to ”review and prepare a legal analysis” of the ruling by the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals to determine what might be done to lessen the future effect of it on those that might have to repay – Warren and Howland school districts, the city of Warren and Howland and Warren townships. An option is taking the case to bankruptcy court.

The state board ruled earlier this year in favor of WCI on an appeal it made in 2005 of a Department of Taxation decision not to lessen the value of machinery and equipment held by the steelmaker at its old Warren facility for years 2001, 2002 and 2003. The case also spent time before the Ohio Supreme Court.

The revised values accepted by the board are what has led to the situation where the governments are facing the potential of paying back the amounts to WCI or a successor, which an attorney for the former WCI, Steven A. Dimengo of Akron, said is RG Steel.

RG Steel ran the Pine Avenue facility, but unloaded it in bankruptcy.

Warren City School District would be liable to repay the most, which is about $1.4 million, said Treasurer Angela Lewis based on Biviano’s ”rough estimate.”

Lewis said she’s not too worried about the situation now. ”It took 11 years to get to this point, it could take a couple more years now that they have hired this attorney.”

Howland School District would be responsible for about $550,000, said Treasurer Tom Krispinsky.

Biviano said he will not withhold the refund from the property tax proceeds given to the governments until the matter is final. If there was a refund made, it would have to come from a different source of revenue because the tangible personal property tax revenue stream no longer exists, Biviano said.