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Southsider2k12
post Oct 15 2009, 02:35 PM
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http://www.southbendtribune.com/article/20.../910150309/1130

QUOTE
Michigan City schools will sue county auditor
Refusal to certify assessment will cost school $8.2 million, board says.

By STAN MADDUX
Tribune Correspondent

MICHIGAN CITY — The Michigan City school corporation will go to court to try to recover $8.2 million that would be lost to the schools from property tax assessments certified by the LaPorte County auditor.

The school board Tuesday night decided to pursue legal action and pay a majority of the legal expenses should other school corporations and government entities in LaPorte County join the lawsuit.

"We have commitments. There are others," said Jim Kintzele, Michigan City school board president.

Losing $8.2 million from a budget of about $50 million is sure to result in major cuts in areas such as student programs and staff, he said.

"If we canceled all of the sports programs, that would be less than $2 million," Kintzele said. "You just figure from there."

The school corporation wants a court order requiring LaPorte County Auditor Craig Hinchman to certify, instead, the property tax assessments from 2006 for use in current billing.

Despite objections from LaPorte County Assessor Carol McDaniel, Hinchman recently certified figures from 2005, which for the city of Michigan City would mean a $2.8 million loss next year.

McDaniel already has filed a lawsuit against Hinchman, seeking certification of the 2006 tax figures that her office approved during a reassessment that's now approaching its third year.

It's the auditor's decision whether to certify the figures.

Hinchman maintains the 2006 figures are flawed, with many over-assessed and underassessed properties.

And, Hinchman said, he cannot in good conscience place his signature on them.

"I'm trying to do what I believe is right," Hinchman said. "Sometimes, the right thing is not the popular thing to do."

The cuts in the school budget to make up for such a shortfall would actually be deeper than what they appear on the surface.

For example, $10 million of next year's budget is reserved to finance bonds taken out for construction projects and cannot be drawn from or reduced to finance daily operating costs, school board member Beryle Burgwald said.

Burgwald said there is some fat to cut but reductions in staff and programs would be inevitable.

He said that when a court decision would be handed down is not known, but he hopes it's soon.

"Time is of the essence," Burgwald said.

Michigan City Mayor Chuck Oberlie said the city will join in the lawsuit.

He said the $2.8 million the city would lose is roughly 15 percent of its general fund budget under the figures certified by Hinchman.

Oberlie is concerned there will be similar losses each year if the 2005 figures are used in the future yearly tax billing.


http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=26397

QUOTE
What's At Stake
A close look at what the reassessment debate means to taxpayers

Laurie Wink
The News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - The issue of County Auditor Craig Hinchman certifying 2005-pay-2006 property values instead of the 2006-pay-2007 reassessed values from County Assessor Carol McDaniel has been well documented.

What's at stake in the matter, however, is this: Will La Porte County have enough property tax revenue to fund county-wide taxing units, such as townships, libraries, towns, cities and school corporations?

Michigan Township Assessor Terry Beckinger helped shed light on the situation.

Michigan Township has been the focus of the tax-appeals storm generated by beach property owners who experienced dramatic jumps in their property assessed values.

The period in question was between 2005-pay-2006 and 2006-pay-2007, and the dramatic change was the result of a state-ordered trending process intended to bring properties to market value.

Beckinger said the differences in assessed values are more dramatic as property values increase.

As an example, Beckinger randomly selected a Michigan City residence of fewer than 1,000 square feet, with three bedrooms and one bathroom. The property's assessed value in 2005, before trending, was $64,500. The 2006 assessed value was $78,100 - not a big jump, according to Beckinger.

However, a house on Lake Shore Drive with an assessed value of $1.8 million in 2005 leapt to $3.8 million in 2006. Beckinger said most of the increase was the result of market appreciation between 1999 and 2005.

The differences in assessed values are even more dramatic for certain commercial and industrial properties.

The NIPSCO generating plant and land, Beckinger said, was valued at about $14 million in 2005, compared to more than $207 million in 2006.

Blue Chip Casino's assessed value went from more than $53 million in 2005 to more than $159 million in 2006. Beckinger said the dramatic increase was partially explained by the fact that the new casino boat was only partially built in 2005, and a $10 million parking garage had yet to be completed.

By using the 2005-pay-2006 assessed property values, Hinchman will reduce the base of valuation upon which the county can collect property taxes. That's because the 2005-pay-06 property taxes were based on 1999 assessed property values, whereas the 2006-pay-07 property assessments were trended ­- as required by state law - to bring them to market value.

The county receives about 70 percent of its revenue from residential property taxes, and another 16 percent from commercial property taxes.

Another large commercial property in Michigan Township, Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets, experienced a slight decline in assessed value, from about $54 million in 2005 to about $53 million in 2006. Beckinger said the difference occurred when some of the land in the mall was reclassified.

Michigan City Area Schools says it will suffer a shortfall of $8 million in tax revenue if tax collections are based on Hinchman's numbers instead of McDaniels' figures. The MCAS school board voted to take legal action to overturn Hinchman's decision.

Beckinger said he's unsure what to tell people who come to him wanting to appeal their 2006-pay-2007 property assessment. He said he has requested the state Department of Local Government Finance clarify the assessments.

"I would like to see a resolution so we can move forward with this," Beckinger said. "If we're going to stay with 2005 values, there's no sense in having people pay for property appraisals and attorneys for changes. At this point, we're really unsure."

The DLGF did caution Hinchman about his choice, saying it had never been done, but indicated Hinchman could make his own decision about the matter.

Beckinger thinks Hinchman overstepped his responsibilities and predicts significant refunds will be issued to individual property owners, particularly those living closest to Lake Michigan.

"I don't agree with it," Beckinger said, "because I think we had a system in place that we should have forged ahead (with)."

q

Contact Laurie Wink at lwink@thenewsdispatch.com.

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Southsider2k12
post Oct 15 2009, 02:42 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=26374

QUOTE
MCAS talks legal action about budget shortfall

Alicia Ebaugh
Staff Writer

MICHIGAN CITY - Michigan City Area Schools is prepared to do whatever it takes to recoup more than $8 million in tax revenue it stands to lose from property tax assessments, including filing a lawsuit, school board members decided Tuesday.

"This is an unprecedented illegal action by La Porte County Auditor Craig Hinchman to deprive the district of 28 percent of its tax revenues," said school board president Jim Kintzele. "We will join the city of Michigan City and any other affected entities in addressing his actions."

The resolution approved unanimously by the school board stated the school district would pay legal costs "in proportion to the amount of revenue lost," coming out to about 55 percent. Michigan City schools stand to lose the most money of all county entities from Hinchman's decision to use assessed values from 2005-pay-2006 instead of the trended values for 2006-pay-2007 as approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

"It's only fair for us to pull our own weight," Kintzele said.

If the budget shortfall isn't addressed, the school district will have to eliminate a significant number of teaching and staff positions, Kintzele said.

"It's absolutely necessary to correct this. Even if we cut out every sports activity in the school system, it would only save us $2 million," he said. "You can see what kind of a bind we are in."

A lawsuit filed in Indiana Tax Court against the auditor's office was recommended to the school board as the best route to go, Kintzele said, but such a suit would need to be filed by Thursday. An attorney has not yet been hired, but Kintzele said he was under the impression that City Attorney John Espar would lead the case on behalf of all parties.

The resolution also gives the school district an option to file its own case if other entities choose not to. School board member Beryle Burgwald said it is important, however, not to become a party in the case La Porte County Assessor Carol McDaniel brought against Hinchman in tax court, questioning his authority in refusing to use her 2006-pay-07 assessed values.

"That's just a mess, and we don't want to be connected to McDaniel," Burgwald said.

The school district could also seek a writ of mandamus, Burgwald said, a court order which forces a government official to "perform their duties correctly" - in this case, forcing Hinchman to accept the 2006-pay-07 assessed values.
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Southsider2k12
post Oct 19 2009, 08:10 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...48&TM=79788

QUOTE

Auditor explains his side of county 'tax mess'

Craig Hinchman

How did we get into this mess! In 2006 a reassessment was done to determine the fair market value of real estate in La Porte County. This work was completed by an outside vendor and sent to the Department of Local Government and Finance (DLGF), which approved these new assessments.

These same approved assessments were then challenged by a local taxpayer who stated that the data was flawed. After a lengthy examination the DLGF approval was rescinded and the original vendor was directed to make adjustments to the data to correct mistakes. Once again the data was submitted to the DLGF and was approved. This corrected data was again challenged by the same local taxpayer. Approximately seven months later the DLGF rescinded its approval again and then ordered a new reassessment.

After 2½ years of this ongoing mess, I was elected to the office of auditor. Now I had to deal with this ongoing problem. The DLGF informed me that the ratio study was completed. I was told that the assessor would roll assessed values (AVs) to me and I would need to certify those values. I explained to the DLGF that I had a problem certifying those values because there seemed to be many problems with the assessed values countywide. I don't know if they used bad data, or if the methodology used was wrong. Many properties throughout the county are over-assessed and others are under-assessed. Neither situation is fair to the taxpayer.

There have been public hearings as well as many articles in the newspapers on the mess. I wanted the DLGF to certify the values themselves since they approved the vendor that was hired to assess the county and it was their ratio study. The DLGF responded that it was my duty to certify the values, not theirs. I asked, as an auditor, how can I certify that the AVs are correct when I do not believe they are. The DLGF then stated I would be certifying that the exemptions were correct. This I would be willing to do. Then the DLGF came back and said no, that I had to certify the AVs as well as the exemptions. I also asked if they would mandate me to certify the values or indemnify me from certifying values I felt were wrong. Their answer was no.

If I certify that the values are correct while knowing they are not, I would be committing an act of malfeasance, a Class D felony. Now my choice is to either certify something I believe is incorrect and let this mess continue, or not certify incorrect data. This is the real issue.

Over the last couple of months decisions made by the DLGF have impacted the 22 cross-county taxing units that directly affect school districts in La Porte and adjoining counties. During the next three months the DLGF and I had ongoing communications, yet the DLGF states I did nothing during those months. The DLGF contacted the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) and told them that they could apply a trending factor, but they chose not to. I looked to the DLGF for direction and help, which I feel was not given. They change their opinion often and always seem upset with La Porte County. The DLGF does not want to admit that they played a big part in this mess, and still are creating problems for us.

In my opinion, most of the problems were created by Commissioner Rushenberg's predecessor. In June 2009, a public meeting was held in La Porte attended by the commissioner of the DLGF and members of his staff. Elected officials and members of the public stated their frustration with the assessment problems. Commissioner Rushenberg stated at that time that he would be willing to accept the 2005 payable 2006 values with a trending figure to get things moving forward. It was my understanding that once a year was selected that year would be used with a trending factor to get a final tax bill out for the other years.

I believed that the 2006 pay 2007 values were wrong and that using the 2005 pay 2006 figures would be better for the taxpayer. I was going certify the 2005 pay 2006 figures with an added 25 percent trending figure. Commissioner Rushenberg determined that I could not use any trending figure. He stated that if I used the 2005 pay 2006 values, it would have to be the exact numbers that were certified by the previous auditor.

After running the numbers, it was my belief that this would not hurt the county so I certified the value. A few weeks later I got a call from the DLGF saying that for the 22 cross-county taxing districts the DLGF was going to change my certified values, and that it most likely would cause a 16 percent shortfall. If the DLGF did not change the values I certified there would not have been a shortfall. At this time my deputy and I called the 22 cross-county taxing units and warned of them about this problem. We directed them to file the 1782 notice to hopefully block the DLGF from changing my certified values. Most everyone said they had numbers from the DLGF and they did not think there would be a problem. Only two taxing units said they would file an appeal. I then filed an appeal with the DLGF for the county and taxing units. At that time I asked Commissioner Rushenberg if he could provide me an IC code or an executive order that gave them permission to change my certified values. I was never given this information.

Now in the Oct. 14 Herald-Argus, Commissioner Rushenberg stated "The Legislature has not given the DLGF regulatory authority over county auditors, and so the DLGF'S mandatory duty is to take what the auditor certifies. The DLGF has no legal authority to force the auditor to certify one set of values over another. Such authority would have to come from the Legislature - or a court."

I feel this is what the 22 cross-county taxing units should be challenging. I wonder what the result would have been if all 22 cross-county units and I filed the appeal. I also sent a letter to our state representatives telling them that there was going to be a shortfall and asking for their assistance. Two of our representatives informed me that they contacted the DLGF. Again, I feel bad that there is going to be a shortfall, but the issue is whether I should certify values I believe are incorrect and commit a felony!

If the values I certified were used there would not have been a huge shortfall. I have looked out for the taxpayers and taxing units' best interest. This is now in the hands of the tax court and a decision will be made. I feel confident after hearing all the information the court will rule in my favor. Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right even though it is not a popular stand.

The county assessor and Michigan Township assessor have stated that they think the retrended assessed values are correct. I wonder, if they had to certify the values, would they still feel the same way? One of the arguments used is that there have been thousands of corrections and the data is better than it originally was. But there are still lots of problems with the data, and it won't be corrected until a new reassessment is done.

Craig Hinchman is La Porte County auditor.
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Southsider2k12
post Oct 21 2009, 07:30 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=26527

QUOTE
Murphy explains reason behind vote

Laurie Wink
The News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - City Council member Rich Murphy, D-1st Ward, said Tuesday night he had no choice but to support the city's legal action to recover a projected $2.8 million shortfall in property tax revenues.

Murphy said his support was not meant as a vote against 1st Ward residents who have been fighting for fair property taxes and believe in using the 2005 assessed values certified by County Auditor Craig Hinchman, rather than the 2006 assessments they consider flawed.

"My vote supports Michigan City, the school system and all entities that will suffer irreparable harm if we don't act," he said. "It's the only remedy we can take. We can't be fiscally irresponsible."

Murphy's remarks came before the City Council's unanimous vote Tuesday supporting the appeal filed Thursday in the Indiana Tax Court on behalf of Michigan City, Long Beach and the Michigan City Area Schools.

Mayor Chuck Oberlie told the council at a special meeting Sept. 28 he intended to file the appeal by the Oct. 15 deadline. He believes other entities will join in the appeal.

Oberlie said the council's support was needed because the members will need to appropriate funds to cover legal costs from the appeal. City attorney John Espar is the lead counsel for the appeal and is joined by Beth Henkel, Michigan City Area Schools attorney.

Oberlie is hoping for a decision from the Indiana Tax Court before the end of this year.

City Council President Bob McKee, D-At-Large, said supporting the appeal was the council's only option, given the "total system breakdown."

"There's been too much blaming of one person or another," McKee said. "It was a group effort that got us there."

Contact Laurie Wink at lwink@thenewsdispatch.com.
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post Oct 21 2009, 10:51 PM
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Bob McKie from the Council Meeting on the vote:

If the County Auditor were the quarterback of our football team, this is like him throwing an interception on the last play of the game to, what should have been, a wide open receiver in the endzone. It would appear that he single handidly lost the game, however review of the game film and the entire game would show that there were also 4 fumbles by a running back by the name of DLGF, 2 critical pass interference calls on our safety by the name of the Assessor, and at least 5 penalties on our offensive line by the name of NEXUS. In the end, the collective miscues are what cost us the game.

This situation we find ourselves in right now is no different. By no stretch of the imagination was it caused simply by one man, or by that one last interception that was thrown. And I say these things and draw the analogy because I think, too many individuals here came under fire...it was certainly a group effort


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Southsider2k12
post Nov 3 2009, 09:42 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=26793

QUOTE
Hearing set in assessor case
MICHIGAN CITY ­- A hearing is set for Dec. 14 in the Indiana Tax Court on a motion to dismiss La Porte County Assessor Carol McDaniel's lawsuit against La Porte County Auditor Craig Hinchman, and other county officials.

Fort Wayne attorney Mark GiaQuinta filed a suit Sept. 15 on behalf of McDaniel challenging Hinchman's authority to use a different set of assessed property values than the one originally certified by the assessor and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. La Porte County attorneys Craig Braje and Christopher Willoughby are seeking to dismiss McDaniel's lawsuit, arguing that McDaniel has not used all possible remedies to prevent Hinchman's action.

Indiana Tax Court Judge Thomas G. Fisher agreed on Oct. 23 to hear the motion at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 in Indianapolis.
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Dave
post Nov 4 2009, 01:04 AM
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QUOTE
La Porte County attorneys Craig Braje and Christopher Willoughby are seeking to dismiss McDaniel's lawsuit, arguing that McDaniel has not used all possible remedies to prevent Hinchman's action.


I'm not familiar with the particulars of the case, as I haven't read the pleadings, but if McDaniel hasn't exhausted non-litigation methods of resolving her complaint, she's going to have her case dismissed. That's what is known as black letter law.
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Southsider2k12
post Nov 6 2009, 03:07 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=26766

QUOTE
Sanitary district taking legal action to recover tax revenue

Laurie Wink
The News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - The Sanitary District of Michigan City will join other parties, including the city of Michigan City, in taking legal action in Indiana Tax Court to recover financial losses from lowered property assessments.

The Sanitary District's board of commissioners has approved a resolution to go after an expected loss of $512,000 in 2007 property taxes resulting from what the commissioners termed La Porte County Auditor Craig Hinchman's "illegal action." Hinchman opted to certify untrended 2005-pay-06 assessed values, rather than the 2006 assessed values approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance and La Porte County Assessor Carol McDaniel because he considered that data flawed.

A loss of more than $500,000 would require the Sanitary District to reduce its workforce or take other actions, according to the unanimously approved resolution.

The Sanitary District board of commissioners will join the appeal filed Oct. 15 in the Indiana Tax Court on behalf of the City of Michigan City, Long Beach and Michigan City Area Schools.

Legal costs associated with the joint effort will be shared by participating parties in proportion to the potential loss of revenue.

City attorney John Espar is the lead counsel for the appeal and is joined by Beth Henkel, Michigan City Area Schools attorney.
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Southsider2k12
post Nov 12 2009, 09:09 AM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=26964

QUOTE
School board member Jones addresses budget rumors

Alicia Ebaugh
Staff Writer

MICHIGAN CITY - Cuts at Michigan City Area Schools are not already being planned in anticipation of a budget shortfall, said school board member Jeffrey Jones in response to "rumors that are floating around."

He took the opportunity near the end of Tuesday's school board meeting to reflect on the building uncertainty within MCAS about the possibility of an $8.2 million reduction in income due to the county's property tax valuation dispute.

"I've been hearing about teachers who are concerned about their jobs, saying there are already lists that say who might be going, what schools might be closing. I feel like I need to say publicly that we have not discussed any of these options," Jones said. "We are not having secret meetings to close schools. $8.2 million isn't chump change, but I'm remaining hopeful we won't have to take drastic action until a time when the decisions have been made."

Board President Jim Kintzele said the district is tracking the lawsuit it filed against the county auditor's office last month and will keep in mind what may need to be done in the future.

"If hurt comes to hurt, everybody is going to feel it, not just one group of people," Kintzele said.

In other business, H1N1 vaccination clinics were held last week at Marsh Elementary School and Eastport Early Learning Center, two schools that have been the hardest hit by student illness this year, said interim superintendent Carla Iacona. Vaccinations are planned for Edgewood Elementary on Friday for all students who have turned in their permission slips.

Also, the superintendent search committee is planning to hold two open meetings, one for school staff and one for the public, to provide comment on what they hope the committee will look for in a new superintendent, Kintzele said. Those meetings will be announced soon.
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Dave
post Nov 12 2009, 11:25 AM
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QUOTE
Also, the superintendent search committee is planning to hold two open meetings, one for school staff and one for the public, to provide comment on what they hope the committee will look for in a new superintendent, Kintzele said.


How about hiring someone who wasn't being run out of town on a rail from their previous position? That might be a good start.

Didn't someone say in a thread on here that superintendents contracts typically are for three years, with some stupid automatic renewal if not cancelled long in advance? Times they are a changing -- how about making the next super an "at-will" employee?
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Southsider2k12
post Nov 12 2009, 11:56 AM
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QUOTE(Dave @ Nov 12 2009, 11:25 AM) *

How about hiring someone who wasn't being run out of town on a rail from their previous position? That might be a good start.

Didn't someone say in a thread on here that superintendents contracts typically are for three years, with some stupid automatic renewal if not cancelled long in advance? Times they are a changing -- how about making the next super an "at-will" employee?


They can't. That is Indiana state law.
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Dave
post Nov 12 2009, 07:43 PM
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Well, nuts.

Who had that stupid idea?
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Southsider2k12
post Nov 12 2009, 09:58 PM
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QUOTE(Dave @ Nov 12 2009, 07:43 PM) *

Well, nuts.

Who had that stupid idea?


I don't know whose brilliant idea it was, but it was referenced during the last Harding extension.

http://www.citybythelake.org/forums/index....ost&p=15338
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Southsider2k12
post Dec 10 2009, 09:32 AM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2009/12/09...0d020024136.txt

QUOTE
Hinchman should tell us who lobbied with him

Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 1:33 AM CST
As someone who works in the Michigan City Area Schools and sees the fear of massive layoffs and service cuts in the school system due to the disastrous decision of the county auditor to certify the outdated 2005 assessments, I am calling on the auditor to ‘name names’ and tell us who urged him to do this.

Michigan City Area Schools stands to lose $8 million from this decision and other government entities stand to lose millions as well. As a city councilwoman in La Porte, I know that my stands and positions are all public.

It’s time that Craig Hinchman tell who pushed him and lobbied him to go with these mistaken 2005 assessments. As elected officials, we need to own up to our decisions and there were several people like County Commission President Barbara Huston and County Council President Mark Yagelski who gave good advice to Hinchman that he should certify the 2006 assessments by the assessor that had been approved by the state. He ignored them.

Instead our rookie county auditor who had only been on the job for six months got pushed around by others. He talked about being threatened with legal action. Who did it, Mr. Hinchman? Name names. Who threatened legal action and pushed you to certify these old, outdated assessments that are costing millions in much-needed tax revenues?

It’s a sad day that not only the Michigan City schools, Michigan City government, the sanitary district and town of Long Beach have had to go to court to get Mr. Hinchman to do his job. Stop protecting certain people Mr. Hinchman. You didn’t do this all on your own. The public has a right to know who stood where on this huge decision and people should be held accountable.

— Andrea Renner

Fourth Ward City Councilwoman,

La Porte
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post Dec 10 2009, 10:35 PM
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QUOTE(southsider2k9 @ Dec 10 2009, 09:32 AM) *

Andrea Renner better be carefull in accusations of a fellow Democrat. The Party took D. Metheny's Precinct Committee job from him over an issue like this. I think she is Precinct Committee person as well. I would hate to see her go on the Metheny rule.
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Dave
post Dec 11 2009, 12:55 PM
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QUOTE
Quoting Ms. Renner:
Michigan City Area Schools stands to lose $8 million from this decision and other government entities stand to lose millions as well.


Could someone explain to me exactly how MCAS is losing this $8 million? Is it losing out on federal matching funds (or something similar), or is it just not getting $8 million in property tax dollars from school district property owners?

I've said on numerous occasions that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, but I want people (and especially elected officials) to realize tax dollars don't grow on trees, either.

And having said that, I freely admit that most of what I know about this issue is what I've read in this thread, so I haven't come to a conclusion as to whether going with the 2005 numbers was a totally boneheaded move or not. But it wouldn't surprise me if the auditor looked at the situation, and decided "This is a freaking mess!" If I was Hinchman, I could imagine being relieved when I heard about the lawsuits. If I was in his shoes, I'd seriously consider getting up in front of the Judge and saying, "This whole situation is a mess, there's no graceful way out of it, and I would welcome an order from this court telling me what the heck I should do."

This post has been edited by Dave: Dec 11 2009, 01:12 PM
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Southsider2k12
post Dec 11 2009, 02:18 PM
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QUOTE(Dave @ Dec 11 2009, 12:55 PM) *

Could someone explain to me exactly how MCAS is losing this $8 million? Is it losing out on federal matching funds (or something similar), or is it just not getting $8 million in property tax dollars from school district property owners?

I've said on numerous occasions that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, but I want people (and especially elected officials) to realize tax dollars don't grow on trees, either.

And having said that, I freely admit that most of what I know about this issue is what I've read in this thread, so I haven't come to a conclusion as to whether going with the 2005 numbers was a totally boneheaded move or not. But it wouldn't surprise me if the auditor looked at the situation, and decided "This is a freaking mess!" If I was Hinchman, I could imagine being relieved when I heard about the lawsuits. If I was in his shoes, I'd seriously consider getting up in front of the Judge and saying, "This whole situation is a mess, there's no graceful way out of it, and I would welcome an order from this court telling me what the heck I should do."


Basically Hinchman certified old numbers that said the entire county was worth an older total dollar amount, which didn't reflect the run up in prices that was seen in real estate. By going with older numbers that shrunk the total value of LPC so much, all of the pieces that come out of that pie, also go shrunk. For the MCAS, which is the biggest piece of that pie, it meant 8.2 million less dollars than the prior year was what its fixed percentage of the pie was now worth.
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post Dec 11 2009, 06:53 PM
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QUOTE(southsider2k9 @ Dec 11 2009, 02:18 PM) *

Basically Hinchman certified old numbers that said the entire county was worth an older total dollar amount, which didn't reflect the run up in prices that was seen in real estate. By going with older numbers that shrunk the total value of LPC so much, all of the pieces that come out of that pie, also go shrunk. For the MCAS, which is the biggest piece of that pie, it meant 8.2 million less dollars than the prior year was what its fixed percentage of the pie was now worth.

And as Michigan City has been declining for 30 some years (population, quality of life) Hinchmans certification would be the right one. Our civic leaders, instead of trying to stop or reverse the shrinking tax base, they have found it easier to just dip into another one of our pockets. This might be the wake up call to them to start serving the community.
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post Dec 16 2009, 02:13 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=27665

QUOTE
MCAS to make tax appeal

Alicia Ebaugh
Staff Writer

MICHIGAN CITY - The Michigan City Area Schools board unanimously voted Tuesday to appeal for an increase in its 2008 property tax levy with the Department of Local Government Finance.

The request is for "emergency relief," as the resolution states, to make up for an up to $9 million shortfall in the MCAS' 2007 budget year. The shortfall would result if La Porte County Assessor Carol McDaniel's 2006 pay 2007 property tax values are not used, instead relying on property tax values from the previous year. That may or may not happen depending on the outcome of separate lawsuits in Indiana Tax Court against the DLGF and La Porte County Auditor Craig Hinchman, who refused to approve McDaniel's figures.

"This is just a safety measure to make sure we can maintain the level of services we offer," Interim Superintendent Carla Iacona said.

Due to this property tax-value dispute, the school district would stand to lose more than $8.2 million from its budget for 2007, money that already has been spent for expenses that year, Iacona said. The school corporation expects shortfalls from other sources of about $800,000 to occur as well.

Also at the meeting, the board by a 5-1 vote approved a $17,000 payment to Beth Henkel, attorney for the board and MCAS, in its case against Hinchman and the DLGF. The payment is for her work on behalf of all plaintiffs in the case, including the city of Michigan City and the town of Long Beach, since she was hired in mid-October, Board President Jim Kintzele said.

"We will bill the other parties for their share of the court costs," he said. "We are each paying our share according to how much money we stand to lose, and we stand to lose the most."

School Board member Beryle Burgwald cast the lone dissenting vote against the payment, since $6,000 of that was for work on a "friend of the court" brief filed in McDaniel's case against Hinchman.

"I am uncomfortable with the way we are proceeding with the tax lawsuit. I said from the beginning I didn't want our case to be tied to Carol McDaniel's, but that is what is happening," Burgwald said. "It has been suggested that we may have to consolidate the two cases."

McDaniel also is suing Hinchman and the DLGF for not approving the property tax assessments she put forward. Board member Don Dulaney said the brief, filed last week in tax court, was not an "endorsement" of McDaniel, but rather another avenue to reiterate the school district's interest in not losing any money.

"It presses our position that the auditor took action outside of his realm of authority, which is causing us loss," Dulaney said.

Kintzele said even if the two cases were put together, it would probably not hurt the school district.

"If the assessor wins her case, we'd automatically win ours," he said. "Sometimes, we have to make friends with people we don't like to hang around with all the time. The end result is $8 million."

In other business, a resolution to oppose the realignment of the South Shore tracks to the south side of 11th Street was indefinitely tabled.

"Nothing's been decided," board member Bill Greene said. "It's putting the cart before the horse."

Burgwald, who introduced the resolution, cast the only vote against the resolution being tabled.
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post Dec 31 2009, 02:12 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?Sectio...ArticleID=27938

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Pink slips ready for school employees
I have friends who teach in the Michigan City Area Schools who tell me pink slips may be going around in the next month to literally hundreds of school employees because of the possible loss of $8 million in tax revenue due to the assessment controversy.

It is just plain wrong that one county commissioner, Michael Bohacek, and County Auditor Craig Hinchman have pushed so hard for the 2005 assessments, which will cost Michigan City Area Schools that $8 million.

The county assessor's 20006 assessment, on the other hand, were approved by the state, and yet Mr. Bohacek has directed the county attorneys to go into court and try to get the outdated 2005 assessments approved instead.

Teachers and employees in Michigan City schools who stand to lose their jobs need to let Mr. Bohacek know how they feel. I don't care how much he dislikes the assessor. Personal vendettas have no place in government, and now his insistence and that of Mr. Hinchman on using these old, outdated assessments is going to cost our teachers and school employees dearly, and in the end it's the school kids who will lose the most.

Barbara Dodge

Michigan City
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