Listening to new faces in old offices | News, Sports, Jobs

FEBRUARY PRESENTERS — In February, the Steubenville Kiwanis Club has its programming designed to hear from newcomers to elected office at the county and city level. The group heard from Scott Renforth, county recorder, left, with club president Melissa Greco, center, and Phyllis Riccadonna, chair of the February program. — Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — Today’s lunch meeting for the Steubenville Kiwanis Club was set to continue its February schedule of hearing from the new faces elected to former Jefferson County and City of Steubenville offices.

Today’s speaker at the Sycamore Youth Center midday luncheon was Andrew Plesich, Clerk of the Courts, introduced by Phyllis Riccadonna, February Program Chair. The final presenter will be Steubenville 6th Ward Councilman Tracy McManamon, a Kiwanis member.

Jefferson County recorder Scott Renforth was the first presenter of the month.

A longtime resident of Jefferson County, Renforth explained that he spent 24 years as a deputy sheriff with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, including 17 as a resource officer in the local Edison School District. . “I met a lot of really wonderful people who I miss a lot. It was the saddest part of my victory in the election – I really loved the children and I miss them and their parents, but I hope that ‘they’ll keep buying real estate and they’ll come to me that way. he said.

Renforth described the clerk’s office as one of the most political offices you’ll find in politics in Jefferson County, but it’s also one of the largest in the county,” he said.

“Without the registrar’s office keeping accurate records of your real estate, mortgages, liens, it’s all about ownership. If these records are not accurate, banks will not use our business to lend to you,” he said. “In order to make the world go round in the real estate market, you need to have accurate records, which is a guarantee that the banks look at us and say, ‘OK, we trust your office and we’ll go from there. ‘before and lend these millions of dollars to different people’, he said.

During the tech update, Renforth explained that the recorder desktop moved from a DOS platform or disk-based operating system.

“We come from a platform where you had to type everything in DOS format. The program was written locally. It was a beautifully written program. It served its purpose but it had a lot of limitations, and we finally got past that point,” he says, praising his staff. “I have the best staff in the county, and I will support them all the way, along with any department head. I really have the A team in my office,” he said of the digitization and indexing of documents that enable online title searches.

“With them, we have come a long way. We all brainstormed together and finally we have an online presence where you can go to my website, search for real estate. We’re back in 92. Not all of our images are here yet because we’re in the process of redacting and redacting personal information so it won’t be released, and that’s a long process in itself, but we are indexed to ’92 online”, he said. “Our images will soon go back to 2016, and the whole goal is to have everything reindexed for a period of 42 years and available online so that title searchers, abstractors can do a full title search online without having to come to the office, “ he added.

The availability of information electronically is also an economic opportunity, according to Renforth. “I think a lot of businesses going to other counties might mirror the recorder’s office and the ability for them to be in their offices and actually research real estate, research the market, and find out if there are goods available before you even come. “, he said instead of having to send a team of people to physically examine the records.

“Next month we are going to be cloud-based”, Renforth said, “So in one year we will move from DOS platform to cloud; I am very happy and grateful for that.” Renforth said.

In a Q&A, Renforth said he recommends anyone buying real estate never do so without a title search first.

“Never do that. You buy a property. The loans are yours. The privileges are yours. We had someone who bought through a sheriff’s sale who walked away with $200,000 on a property because they didn’t do a title search. That’s how important our office is. he said.

On Feb. 8, Kiwanis heard from EJ Conn, who took up his post three years ago as county auditor and said he loves his job and can serve the community.

Conn also praised his staff. “I’ve been very lucky to have a ton of great people working for me in the auditor’s office,” he said. “I was in office for a year before COVID hit, and I accomplished a lot of really good things, I think, things that I promised during my campaign that I would do. It’s been a crazy last few years trying to keep the county up and running and keeping the staff safe at the start of this when we didn’t know what was going on, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far now “, he said.

“One of my goals that I promised during the campaign was to sign up for Ohio’s online checkbook, where you can log into the site and see all of the expenditures made by the county. I think that it’s good from a transparency perspective that everyone knows exactly where we’re spending the money. That’s been really helpful.” said Conn.

The office now offers online dog licensing, according to Conn, who said he worked in county government for 19 years.

“I noticed, and not just in our county but in all counties, we are always a bit behind in terms of technology. I think that’s something that’s happening statewide, but we’re trying to fix that. We’ve done over half a million dollars in IT infrastructure improvements to the county network system and after all is said and done and we put those improvements in place I think our IT network would be on par with all other computer networks in the county or even better,” said Conn.

“One of the things that really alarmed me was the risk of ransomware and cyberattacks on local governments. I kept hearing story after story of counties being hit by ransomware attacks and costing them half a dollar. million, $700,000 to get their data back in. It wasn’t a place I wanted to see our county in this predicament, so we put safeguards in place that, God forbid, if that happens, we can respond to it quickly and we can unlock our data, and the key to that is back up, back up, back up as much as we can,” he said.

The pandemic has notably resulted in a large influx of federal dollars, Conn noted. “It’s not something we expected to happen when COVID first emerged, but the county is trying to spend it as wisely as possible.

Conn said late last year the office had refinanced some of the county’s oldest bonds, saving the county $600,000. “We are constantly looking for different ways to save taxpayers’ money and reallocate those funds where they go back to the community and the taxpayers. I think it’s important to constantly look for ways to save,” he said. The office is more streamlined in part due to attrition thanks to the reduction in staff, from 18 to 15.

“Last year, one thing I started doing when a natural disaster happens – remember last year’s tornadoes – our office immediately responds to these homes to have their properties devalued for the amount of damage they have suffered, he said, noting that in the past, the owner usually had to come in and fill out a damage form.

Conn brought with him as a guest Tim Finley of Appraisal Research Corp., the company contracted for appraisal services. “It’s a little different from a typical pre-assessment that you would get from a bank or any other appraisal order. You are considering larger areas. You don’t look house by house and then compare it to three comparable sales. You pretty much study neighborhood by neighborhood to see where those sales have gone. This is a little bit where the mass assessment differs. They must be certified by the State of Ohio,” Conn explained.

“Three years ago, we went through a full reassessment process. At that point, their company went out and visited every home in the county, took pictures, and then sort of compiled that data back to the home office, and then set the market values,” he said. “Three years after the complete reassessment, the State gives us a mandate to go through a three-year update. It doesn’t involve a viewing of the property and what it is the state tells you roughly how much you need to adjust based on the sales that have taken place in that particular neighborhood,” he explained.

“During the full revaluation, on average, they asked us to increase the value by 12%. Three years after doing the triennial, for which you have just received (property tax) bills, they asked us to ‘increase the value by 11.9%’, he said, adding, “I don’t know how much you follow the real estate market, but it’s a seller’s market. And homes are selling everywhere and for more than you would expect from a home for sale.

“The state initially asked us to increase 16%. I backed off a bit on that. I wanted to keep it below 10. Personally, I thought 10 was reasonable but they didn’t approve of it at 10 and ended up settling for 11.9. Conn said, noting that it reflects the state of the market throughout Ohio.

“Counties north of Columbus, some of those counties, have imposed increases of 40% in one year. I think at some point the legislature may have to take a look at it, try to limit those increases,” Conn commented.

“For people who were original homeowners and haven’t sold their homes, it’s starting to get to the point of pushing some people out of their neighborhood, and that’s unfortunate. I don’t think anyone wants to see it get to this point.

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