"INDIANAPOLIS (July 18, 2007) – Governor Mitch Daniels today ordered a reassessment of all real property in Marion County property based on evidence that business assessments were either left undone or performed inaccurately, contributing to an unfair tax burden on homeowners. The governor also said he will freeze tax bills for Marion County at 2006 amounts and recommended that the county issue provisional bills until the reassessment is completed and new bills are issued.

“We’re here to solve problems, and we’re beginning with the immediate — at least in Marion County — today. People need relief now, and we can’t have people losing their homes because of unfair taxes,” said Daniels.

As he addressed immediate property tax problems in Marion County, Daniels also announced a plan to seek long-term solutions for reform and restructuring of local civil and school government. He named Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and former Governor Joe Kernan to co-chair a commission that will examine and make recommendations on such topics as what local government offices could be eliminated to achieve efficiencies and cost-savings and how local governments might restructure or consolidate to reduce overhead and other expenses.

Daniels decided to order the Marion County reassessment after receiving a recommendation from Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave.  The DLGF and the state’s government efficiency group have been poring through parcel data for the county in recent days. Musgrave outlined findings that prompted her recommendation in a memo to the governor. For example, assessed value for nearly three-fourths (16,000 of 22,100) of commercial and industrial parcels in Marion County did not change at all over a six-year period.

The state will take charge of the commercial and industrial reassessment in Marion County using professional assessment assistance and instruct county officials to do the residential work. Marion County property taxpayers will receive bills with a new 2007 amount promptly after the reassessment is completed and tax rates certified, a process that is expected to take six to eight months.

To begin the formal process of initiating a Marion County reassessment, the DLGF has issued a resolution that calls for a public hearing in 10 days. Following the public hearing, DLGF will issue an order to reassess.

The governor said it is likely that reassessments will be ordered for other counties, but so far, many have not complied with state law to provide the detailed parcel information they are required to send that will enable analysis of assessments. The DLGF has begun to review information for Gibson County, whose homeowners have received property tax bills with average increases of more than 35 percent. Aggregate tax data for that county indicates a problem similar to that of Marion County.

The DLGF will send a demand letter to counties that have not sent their data to the state or have provided noncompliant data. Counties for priority attention include Elkhart, Delaware and Jefferson, but all will be closely examined. There are only 18 counties in complete compliance.

Daniels again asked legislators to consider his proposals for use of a local circuit breaker to provide direct relief to those who need it most and to convert the rebate to a property tax credit that would be more immediate.

On July 14, the governor sent legislative leaders a letter suggesting that counties be given the ability to use their share of $300 million appropriated for property tax relief this fiscal year to target property tax relief to those hardest hit through a locally-designed “circuit breaker”. That could come in a number of forms, including capping bills at a certain percentage of a home’s gross assessed value, at a certain percentage of the owner’s adjusted gross income, at a maximum percentage or dollar amount increase, by setting aside a certain percentage of the county fund for those on fixed incomes, or by any other method fitting the local situation.

Counties not choosing a targeted approach would stay with the formula established by the General Assembly, which would provide relief to every homeowner, whether their taxes went up or not. But Daniels has proposed converting the current rebate checks into a credit to deliver the relief sooner and with less administrative expense.

A link to the DLGF Commissioner’s memo and resolution may be found at: http://www.in.gov/dlgf/news/07182007.html

Source:  Office of Gov. Mitch Daniels



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