County owed $25 million

WARREN – The amount delinquent property taxpayers owe Trumbull County plummeted nearly 23 percent in 2015, yet there’s a balance of almost $25 million unpaid to the county’s coffers.

Treasurer Sam Lamancusa gets uncomfortable disclosing dollar figures like that and worries people who pay their taxes regularly will get the wrong impression, but in reality that’s unlikely to happen – the vast majority of residents and businesses pay their tax bills, and that $25 million represents about 10 percent of the approximate $235 million total tax bill for the county.

Warren tops the delinquent property tax list, with taxpayers owing $11.6 million on 5,858 parcels of property, according to numbers compiled by the Tribune Chronicle.

No. 2 is Liberty, where taxpayers owe $3.3 million on 1,274 pieces of land and in third place, Niles, where $2.6 million is owed on 1,158 parcels of property. In Warren Township, there are 2,367 delinquent parcels for $2.4 million, and $2.2 million is owed by property owners in Howland on 1,330 pieces of land.

The $25 million represents 24,543 parcels of land. In Trumbull County, there are 142,670 parcels.

Lamancusa said much of the nearly $25 million is uncollectable because about 75 percent of that is tied to urban land. He said a high percentage of those properties are abandoned.

In Warren and Warren Township, there are 8,225 taxable properties that are delinquent, accounting for almost 35 percent of the county’s total bill. But when those numbers are translated into dollars, it’s $14 million or about 55 percent of the delinquent tax owed across Trumbull County.

Those numbers are dropping, Lamancusa said, because of the Trumbull County Land Bank.

“In about 2010, with the effect of the housing bubble in full force around here, delinquent taxes caused by the high number of foreclosures in the area averaged about 20 percent,” Lamancusa said. “We had to think of a way to get that number down and make the properties recoverable.”

Helping communities dispose of these properties – through demolition, renovation and resale or side-lot acquisition – is Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, Lamancusa said.

According to TNP’s report for 2015, the organization facilitated the sale of 51 improved land bank properties, including seven as private demolitions, four as fully renovated move-in ready properties and 37 as deed in escrow sales. Deed in escrow sales are the result of a purchase agreement between the land bank and the buyer in which the deed is held until an agreed upon rehabilitation plan is complete.

Additionally, the land bank transferred five properties to nonprofits and two properties to government entities for demolition purposes.

“These are all properties that are now productive and taxable,” Lamancusa said.

Lamancusa said about 85 to 90 percent of the land bank properties – and delinquent tax cases – are in Warren and Warren Township, and Lisa Ramsey, assistant director for TNP, said 10 of the 11 target areas are in the city of Warren.

TNP’s other target area is in Girard, where, according to numbers from Lamancusa’s office, 1,145 parcels of property are delinquent on $1.9 million in taxes.

Ramsey said her group is writing proposals to spread the TNP’s sphere of target areas into Masury, Hubbard, Newton Falls and Girard-Liberty.

In Brookfield, which includes Masury, the tax delinquency is $1.7 million on 1,262 parcels of land. Hubbard and Newton Falls also have hefty amounts – 299 parcels in Hubbard city for a delinquency of $714,301 and 1,145 parcels of land in the village of Newton Falls for a delinquency of $569,503.

Those numbers don’t include the townships – Hubbard and Newton – in which the city and village are located.

Slightly more than 1,600 parcels are delinquent in Newton Township for a tab of just more than $911,000. In Hubbard Township, $1.5 million is due on 1,215 pieces of property.

Ramsey said the most successful way to get a property back to the positive side of the tax roles is the side lot transfer.

“We know that the best way to save a neighborhood is to work with the neighbors who stick it out there and many of them jump at the chance to expand their properties, with the land used for gardens or other landscaping ideas,” Ramsey said.

TNP has facilitated the sale of 130 side lots. Since it began managing the land bank in March 2013, Ramsey said more than 420 side lots have been transferred.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com