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> Property tax drama, year 6
Southsider2k12
post Feb 23 2012, 01:16 PM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2012/02/22...dd639085647.txt

QUOTE
Reaction varies to reconciled property tax bills

By Tim Moran
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 5:05 PM CST
Staff Writer

LA PORTE COUNTY — The reconciled property tax process is not sitting well with some La Porte County residents and one has voiced his strong opposition to the idea of paying for an assessment from 2007.

Recently, property owners in La Porte County were sent statements for 2007-pay-2008 property taxes after a reassessment order was issued by the state of Indiana.

Dave Pelham, who owns a 50-acre lot in La Porte County, said it was “kind of a shock” to open the mail and find a bill for $15,000, which would be the difference in the assessed value from the original 2007 assessment, which he already paid nearly $1,600.

After speaking with a member of the county treasurer’s office, Pelham said he was told the assessment was that much higher because portions of the acre’s area were rezoned from wetlands to residential.

“I was told if it were rezoned woodlands - that would eliminate 75 to 80 percent of the tax,” Pelham said.

The notice originally sent to property owners earlier this month, stated that any amount billed for would become “delinquent” after Feb. 24, a date that has now been pushed back to early March.

Pelham also questions the validity of a tight payment deadline on an issue that took officials nearly four years to resolve.

“It’s not right,” he said. “They take years to get the information to us - and without warning - they want us to pay within two weeks,” he said, noting that the treasurer’s office was closed for two of the business days within the two week span.

On the local business side, Marquette Mall General Manager Laura Tubbs said “nothing out of the ordinary” struck her when the reassessment was sent to the mall.

“It seemed like a standard bill,” she said.

But while residents and businesses are on the hook for the difference in values - cities, schools and libraries in the county are the benefactors.

Chip Claussen, controller for the Michigan City Public Library, says the body is relying on funds that have already been appropriated to them, but if property owners do not pay the tax, the library could be in for “a rude awakening.”

“We have had to borrow and not spend all of the appropriated funds if that situation arises,” he said. “All we can do is wait and see if the bills come in.”

Claussen said he would like to see the library collect not only the amount pledged to them from the 2007-2008 bills, but also to have invoices for reassessments from the 2008-pay-2009 period as well as the 2009-pay-2010 period be mailed this year.

“We do not want to cut back on service to our patrons,” he said. “But if we do see the revenue we could explore adding more e-books, which other libraries are doing.”

Claussen, who has served as controller for less than a year, said the property tax in Indiana is “about one-fourth” of what it is in his home state of Wisconsin.

“In Indiana, the property taxes are actually pretty low,” he said.

Pelham said he is appealing his property assessment through Michigan Township, calling the reassessment process “wrong.”

“I don’t think it’s right to do this to the little guy,” he said.
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Southsider2k12
post Feb 23 2012, 01:17 PM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2012/02/22...70137129177.txt

QUOTE
Deadline for property tax bills extended

By Matt Fritz
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 5:05 PM CST
Staff writer

1-866-362-2167 Ext. 13887

mfritz@heraldargus.com

La PORTE COUNTY — If you just got your reconciled property tax bill and are worried about the Friday payment deadline, don’t worry.

The county’s office has extended the deadline to Friday, March 2, due to an unexpected late mailing.

According to County Treasurer Nancy Hawkins, the 2007-pay-2008 reconciliation bills were delivered to the U.S. Postal Service on Feb. 4, but apparently weren’t received by taxpayers until this past week.

They were shipped out of a post office in New York, where they were printed.

The bills reconcile the amounts paid by taxpayers on the provisional 2007-pay-2008 bills, meaning some residents will owe more while others will owe less. There were no certified tax bills for the 2007-pay-2008 year, so provisional bills were based on the 2005-pay-2006 year.

The total amount billed has not been reported yet.

Hawkins said her department doesn’t know why the mail was delivered so late, but homeowners who still haven’t received their reconciled property tax bills can email her at nhawkins@laportecounty.org, or call her La Porte office at (219) 326-6808 (Ext. 2245 or 2246), or her Michigan City office at 874-5611 (Ext. 7782).

If they call the office, she said staff can tell them their amount and parcel number over the phone. Payments can then be mailed to the treasurer at La Porte County Treasurer, P.O Box J, Michigan City, IN 46361-0319.

She said she encourages residents to use alternative means of payment because the lines get pretty long in the office.

The information can also be faxed to residents.

Payments can be made at any La Porte County branch of Horizon Bank by presenting the payment coupon with cash or check.

Payments can also be made by check or money order by dropping the payment into one of the drop boxes located at both the La Porte and Michigan City courthouses. The drop boxes will be available until 3:30 p.m. March 2.

Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you want a receipt. Payments must be postmarked no later than March 2.

Hawkins said she hopes to be able to send out another reconciled tax bill this year, but noted that it’s really up to the county assessor and auditor when the calculations for the next bill are completed.

Provisional tax bills will come out this April. Hawkins noted that the real tax bills won’t be submitted until all the provisional bills have been reconciled.

Previous projections have put that date sometime in 2016, but that was based on two reconciliation bills a year. Some officials have surmised it might take longer.

One reconciliation bill was sent out last year.
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post Feb 24 2012, 10:20 AM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2012/02/23...05097139969.txt

QUOTE
Can’t pay your property tax on time? Expect penalties

By Matt Fritz
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012 5:03 PM CST
Staff writer

1-866-362-2167 Ext. 13887

mfritz@heraldargus.com

La PORTE — Penalty fees may be charged against those who don’t pay their reconciliation property tax bills on time.

County Auditor Craig Hinchman said the bills, handed out late this year will still have penalties attached to them if residents pay them late. He said his office doesn’t have a lot of leeway due to state statute.

The bills, originally due on Feb. 24, have an extended deadline of Friday, March 2, because of an unexpected late mailing.

Hinchman said late fees will be applied starting March 3. The amount will be 5 percent for bills paid within the first 30 days after the due date, but after 31 days the penalty will double to 10 percent.

He also noted that homeowners who didn’t get their bills aren’t exempt from the penalty, so if they haven’t received one yet, they should be contacting the county treasurer.

“Just because you didn’t get your tax bill doesn’t mean you get your delinquency waved,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right to me, but that’s just the way it is.”

Treasurer Nancy Hawkins pointed out that her office is willing to accept payments from customers who can’t afford to pay their whole bill at once. She said this won’t save them from the 5 or 10 percent penalty, but it will stop their home from being sold by the county in a tax sale.

Hawkins said homes are eligible for a tax sale when owners miss three tax payments under normal circumstance, but with the county tax situation the way it is, she said circumstances aren’t normal so the county won’t be forcibly selling any homes.

Hawkins said her department doesn’t know why the mail was delivered so late, but any homeowners who still haven’t received their reconciled property tax bills can email her at nhawkins@laportecounty.org, or call her La Porte office at (219) 326-6808 Ext. 2245 or 2246 or her Michigan City office at (219) 874-5611 Ext. 7782.

If they call the office, she said staff can tell them their amount and parcel number over the phone. Payments can then be mailed to the treasurer at La Porte County Treasurer, P.O Box J, Michigan City, IN 46361-0319.

She said she encourages residents to use alternative means of payment because the lines get pretty long in the office.

Payments can also be made at any La Porte County branch of Horizon Bank by preserving the payment coupon with cash or check.

Payments can also be made by check or money order by dropping the payment into one of the drop boxes located at both the La Porte and Michigan City courthouses.
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post Feb 24 2012, 10:21 AM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2012/02/23...28966556399.txt

QUOTE
County official: 5 years ‘too long’ to wait for tax bills

By Tim Moran
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012 5:03 PM CST
For The Herald-Argus

La PORTE COUNTY — County Assessor Mike Schultz said it should have never taken five years to reconcile and send out revised tax bills from the 2007-pay-2008 time frame, and his office is working on rectifying the situation.

“Five years is too long,” he said. “Once it got to be two years, something should have been done.”

Schultz, who was the Center Township assessor at the time of the 2006 reassessment controversy, said this situation is “frustrating” as he serves as the current county assessor.

“We would like to get caught up quicker, but the hole to dig out of is pretty deep,” he said. “We are still owed assessments from the previous assessor.”

Schultz did say his goal is that by 2014, the county could return to the “normal cycle” where assessments are made every March, and half of the amount residents must pay in property taxes is due in May, and the other half by November.

With reconciled tax bills still yet to be processed for 2008-pay-2009, 2009-pay-2010 and 2010-pay-2011 periods, Schultz said those years saw a “decline in the market,” so a number of assessed residential values could decrease for future bills.

County Treasurer Nancy Hawkins said delinquent bills are not a part of the problem, and that the county has received anywhere between 82 and 85 percent of bills sent out since she took office in 2008.

While officials from the Michigan City Public Library said they were confident that they would receive the amount allotted to them from the 2007-pay-2008 tax period, Michigan City Area Schools Chief Financial Officer Dick Cook said he only expects “75 to 80 percent” of that amount pledged to the school system to come in.

“Some people’s assessed values have been down some,” he said. “And with the economy being the way it is – we probably won’t receive the amount of tax receipts we should.”

Cook said the majority of funding from residential and business property taxes helps pay for teacher salaries and benefits.

Capital projects, as well as utilities and insurance costs are also funded through tax revenue, Cook said.
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post Feb 24 2012, 10:27 AM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...ed668134539.txt

QUOTE
It’s time for La Porte County to fix its property tax mess

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012 5:07 PM CST
La Porte County residents have many things to point to with pride – the beautiful lakeshore, the only Indiana county with a lighthouse, the mix of urban and agriculture.

But we also have the dubious distinction of being the only county in Indiana still behind on its tax assessments and collection after state-ordered reassessment years ago. That’s right, La Porte County is the only county in Indiana that can’t get its tax house in order.

The legacy of this mishandled mess continues to ripple through our neighborhoods, businesses, public institutions such as libraries, schools and city and county administration, and most importantly, in property owners’ pocketbooks.

Without any notice or warning, the county’s treasurer’s office sent out catch-up property tax bills for 2007-08 this month, with only a 10-day window to pay.

Click here to find out more!
Lacking any prior notice, taxpayers and businesses have responded with bewilderment, anger, some with resignation at the inevitability of it all, and others just trying to figure out what is going on.

Some taxpayers are trying to figure out why they are being asked to pay additional hundreds or thousands of dollars. Others aren’t too surprised about this bill, but wonder what is coming in the 2008-09 bills – and when those bills are coming.

It’s impossible for taxpayers and businesses to properly plan for expenses when they have no warning when, and how much, these bills might be.

First, the treasurer’s office should give at least a month’s warning that property tax bills will be coming out on a certain date. If possible, there should be a database online for taxpayers and businesses to check what that catch-up bill will be, in order to allow time to research and determine if it is accurate.

Secondly, and this did come to pass for the February bills, 10 days is not long enough for most taxpayers and businesses to get the payments in, particularly when the bills weren’t expected. We grant that the treasurer’s office moved the February deadline back to March 2, giving taxpayers more time, but it shouldn’t have been in such a tight time frame in the first place.

The treasurer’s office has known when they planned to send out the bills for some time. That information should be shared with everyone when the decision is made, and the treasurer’s office should hit the deadline for mailing the bills. That way taxpayers and businesses know what to expect and when they are expected to pay the bill.

Its regrettable that we are in this situation in the first place. It reflects years of mishandling of the assessment and tax billing process in the county.

To get out of it, we need more organization, communication and leadership from our county officials to get this tax mess cleaned up – pronto.

And they can start by providing a sound plan that they follow to catch everyone up to current tax bills, with a big dose of better communication with taxpayers and businesses.

Taxpayers, businesses and the county departments all deserve answers to questions that continue to linger about this long drawn-out process that shows no end in sight.

The treasurer’s office needs to clarify why they are using a New York company to mail and process tax bills.

Why doesn’t the treasurer know how many tax bills have been sent out and how much money the county is set to collect?

Why isn’t every county official working to get this mess cleaned up?

It’s time for La Porte County’s government officials, and those who have filed to run for office this year in county government, to step up and get this fixed for the wellbeing of every taxpayer and business in the county. No more excuses.
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Southsider2k12
post Feb 27 2012, 02:22 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...08944505246.txt

QUOTE
La Porte County’s ongoing property tax mess has a new wrinkle

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012 6:45 PM CST
The unfortunate story of one out-of-town resident who bought a vacation home in La Porte County in 2010 and now has just found out he owes five years of back taxes is a reminder that the fine print always needs to be read.

One of the most confusing things about La Porte County’s tax mess is that the provisional tax bills, representing back taxes to five years ago, are going to follow the property, not the owner at the time the taxes were levied years ago.

So that means, if you have purchased a home in La Porte County in the past five years, and didn’t make a specific provision that the previous owner would pay all prior and provisional taxes, you could be on the hook for some serious tax liability.

According to county officials, real estate agents should be advising their clients, both sellers and buyers, about La Porte’s provisional tax problem so that both parties in the real estate transaction can understand what they are agreeing to when the purchase is finalized.

*
While some may say it is unfair to someone who purchased a home in 2010 to be paying back taxes on it from 2007-08, someone has to pay. And in the case of the homeowner we talked to, he admitted that in the fine print, it shows he agreed to pay the taxes. He says he didn’t know it, but it was there in the purchase contract in the fine print.

And what are we to learn from this? First, the failure of La Porte County to properly assess and levy taxes in a timely manner has created a difficult situation for home buyers and home sellers, as it’s another negotiable item that must be discussed prior to making the transaction final. And who knows how many real estate deals have been tossed aside because a seller refused to agree to pay the provisional tax bills, and the seller decides that the deal isn’t going to work? And how many people are avoiding buying a home in La Porte County because they don’t want to deal with the situation?

This is just one more after-the-fact problem that La Porte County residents have to deal with because our county officials couldn’t get our tax assessments and billing done in a proper or timely manner.

So check out the fine print if you’re in market to buy a La Porte County home. And as for the county?

It’s time to clean up this tax mess, not just for the real estate market, but for everyone.


http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...a7278711999.txt

QUOTE
Recent home buyers may owe reconciled property tax bills

By Tim Moran
Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012 5:08 PM CST
LA PORTE COUNTY — John Thomas was born and raised in Michigan City and in 2010 purchased a home in La Porte County to use during the summer months while vacationing from his current job in Kirkham, Wash.

But that purchase would never have happened had he known about the county's "reconciled property tax" situation — something he calls a "don't know — don't tell" situation.

"I didn't have a clue about the reconciliation — and now I am paying tax on a home for 2007 when I did not even take ownership until 2010," he said.

Thomas said last year he was billed in excess of $2,000 for the 2006-pay-2007 reconciled tax bills and is now required to pay a similar amount for the 2007-pay-2008 period.

*
With bills expected to come in later this year for the 2008-pay-2009 period, Thomas says he could end up being on the hook for around $6,000 for taxes on a home he did not own when the taxes were first assessed.

The issue, as Thomas sees it, is that his real estate broker did not inform him of the reconciled tax situation.

"If I had known about the tax deal, there would have been no deal," he said, admitting there was a line in the "fine print" that stated the "seller did not wish to sign tax preparations" and that Thomas would then be required to pay the property taxes.

"Shame on me for not reading the fine print, but shame on the real estate agent for not disclosing what was going on in this state," he said.

County Treasurer Nancy Hawkins said it is "rare" for a real estate broker not to discuss the reconciled tax situation with buyers from out of state.

"Good, reliable real estate agents are covering this with people before the purchase is made," she said. "Especially for a 2010 case — I find it hard to believe that it was not discussed."

Hawkins said that a state law says that property taxes follow the property, not the owner, in reconciled cases where reassessments have been made.

But she said in most cases, "people who purchase homes usually have provisions that have been made so that the former owner pays taxes."

Thomas also questioned why his property was assessed at nearly $90,000 when his purchase was only for $60,000.

"The real estate company should have done the right thing and straightened it out," he said, adding that he has filed a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General on the matter.

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post Feb 27 2012, 02:27 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...1f450896010.txt

QUOTE
Residents have until March 23 to appeal reconciliation tax bills

By Matt Fritz
Staff writer
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012 5:08 PM CST
La PORTE COUNTY — County residents have until March 23 to appeal their reconciliation tax bill.

La Porte County Assessor Mike Schultz said residents who think their reconciled tax bills are too high or incorrect can ask to have the assessment process opened up again. All that’s needed is their name, property address, tax number (if they have it) and phone number or email address to contact them if they want to file.

He said it is also helpful if they state their trouble, and not just that their tax is too high (although they can certainly put that), but what they thought made it high. For instance, did something noteworthy happen to their property? Otherwise his office will only look at their sales.

Schultz also warned residents to look at their property values closely before they appeal in case they miss something, because the process can actually make their taxes even higher if something was found to be overlooked before.

*
He said sometimes a garage was torn down and the county didn’t know about it or an item was bought at $120 and it was assessed at $150. Other people were also receiving agriculture rates for excess lands, but lost that special low rate when they didn’t use the excess land for farming.

Schultz also emphasized that the taxes are based on 2007 values, so residents need to look at sales in 2006, 2007 or 2008.

Michigan Township residents are encouraged to file appeals in the Michigan Township office while other county residents may use the La Porte office.

He said the deadline is 4 p.m., March 23.
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post Feb 29 2012, 10:00 AM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2012/02/28...14376462027.txt

QUOTE
In the housing market?

By Deborah Sederberg
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 5:00 PM CST
Staff Writer

MICHIGAN CITY — Local real estate professionals who talked with The Herald-Argus about a Saturday story in which a home buyer claimed he did not understand the La Porte County’s prior taxes situation as it applied to his purchase of a house, say agents are trained to discuss the tax reconciliation process with buyers.

Micky Gallas, owner of Micky Gallas Properties, finds it hard to imagine that any real estate agent would fail to explain La Porte County’s reconciled tax bills and prior tax bills to any home buyer.

“We talk with every buyer about taxes,” she said.

Often, the explanation is simple – the seller agrees to pay back taxes.

In other situations, the seller will not agree to pay the taxes and the buyer becomes responsible.

La Porte County treasurer Nancy Hawkins told The Herald-Argus for the Saturday story that the taxes follow the property, not the owner, in reconciled cases where reassessments have been made, unless the buyer and seller have made another arrangement in the contract, via an addendum.

“Exactly,” Gallas said. Buying and selling real estate, she said, is a contract between two people, and barring any arrangement prohibited by law, the contract can require nearly anything to which both parties agree.

“We want to be sure the buyers understand the process,” Gallas said. She said agents encourage clients to ask questions.

Because La Porte County is so far behind in issuing tax bills, Gallas added, no real estate professional can make an accurate prediction about future taxes, because the most recent reconciled bills are the ones from the 2007-pay 2008 period.

Larry Middleton, president of Century 21 Middleton Company Inc., said he and his agents always carefully explain the tax situation to buyers.

“We address (the tax issue) with the buyer on every sale,” Middleton said. “Anyone who doubts me can audit my files and find that it was addressed in every case.

“We explain everything, including prior taxes.”

All agents are trained to explain the matter in the same way, he added.

He uses real estate forms from the Indiana Association of Realtors, except for the addendum in which a seller agrees to pay the taxes. He had that form prepared by his attorney.

The statewide association has no such form because this tax issue is unique to La Porte County.

No one can force the seller to pay future taxes, he said, but some sellers agree to pay, perhaps as a way of inducing a buyer to make a purchase.

Some sellers will never agree to the tax addendum. Those include estates, bank-owned property and short sales, when a bank will sell a property for less than the amount of its mortgage.

In some cases, a buyer might agree to buy only if the seller pays the taxes, but then even if the seller declines to be responsible, will go ahead with the purchase.

“We require buyers to initial” certain documents to indicate that the agent explained and they understand the tax situation on the property they are purchasing, Middleton said.

Some sellers who won’t take responsibility for the taxes might agree to lower the selling price in exchange for the buyer taking over the taxes.

But because the county has issued bills that cover only to 2008, it is impossible to make a dollar-for-dollar trade because no one can make an accurate prediction on the amount of future taxes.

Middleton said he now is working with customers who bought their homes a year or more ago because some of them, who understood the issue at the time, need a little refresher now that bills have arrived.

“People forget what they signed or what it meant,” he said.

It’s a complex matter for people who don’t deal with it daily as real estate agents do, he added.

If a customer needs another copy of the documents he or she signed, “we’ll send it,” he said.

Debbie Burke, owner/broker for Merrion and Associates, said she and her agents frequently ask, “Do you understand? Is there anything else you need to know?” as they explain how the taxes work.

“We want people to ask questions,” she said. “We want them to understand.”

On the other hand, agents and clients get a little frustrated when information is not available from the county. “We can only relay the information we can get,” she said.

None of the real estate professionals who talked with The Herald-Argus were aware of any sales that were thwarted by the county tax situation.
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post Mar 1 2012, 12:56 PM
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http://heraldargus.com/articles/2012/02/29...02468989121.txt

QUOTE
A multi-million dollar disaster

Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 4:59 PM CST
The current property tax situation for La Porte County residents and governmental bodies is a tragedy.

If this were a natural disaster, it would evoke a sense of firm resolve and solidarity as we all pulled together to regain a sense of control. However, this is a man-made disaster that has become an embarrassment for our county and a disaster that is creating an ever-growing and substantial financial burden for us all; a burden that threatens the quality of our lives, our community, and our children.

The combined loss of revenue for the City of La Porte, (not to mention or include the losses occurred by the City of Michigan City and their school corporation), the La Porte Community School Corporation and the La Porte County Library has reached the multi-millions of dollars even without the direct expense of elected officials and government bodies suing each other. While the legal and political battles over the reassessment mess may not be totally to blame for this multi-million dollar debacle, they are certainly a major contributor.

This letter is not meant to support any one taxpaying person or entity over another. The issue is much more serious than that.

The time to point fingers and assign blame has long since passed. Here’s how this mess directly impacts you.

Public entities depend on tax revenues and have had to cut their budgets. Most of these entities, such as cities, school systems, and libraries, borrowed money from local banks or the Indiana Bond Bank to make ends meet. Rather than cut necessary services, these entities figured the reassessment problem would be quickly resolved and that short-term financing was a viable option.

As the problem has lingered and grown to its present crisis, public entities have now not only had to continue borrowing money but have cut services as well as pay and benefits for employees. These entities now find themselves providing minimal services with very little money to operate as financing options have dried up and a bleak outlook as interest bills continue to grow with no near term solution in sight.

La Porte County, due to unresolved issues with the last real property assessments, sent out “Reconciled tax bills for 2007 Pay 2008. Although the assessment issues have subsequently been resolved, the County has continued, although on a deferred timetable, to send out “Provisional” bills for 2007 Pay 2008, 2008 Pay 2009, 2009 Pay 2010 and 2010 Pay 2011. Indications from the County are that it will be between 2014-16 before this problem is corrected. This time table will extend past another real property assessment, which is now underway and scheduled to take affect with the 2012 Pay 2013 tax bills. The County mailed “Reconciled” or final tax bills for 2006 Pay 2007 in April 2011 with payment due in April 2011. According to a phone conversation with the La Porte County Treasurer’s office the morning of February 8, 2012, “reconciled” bills for 2007 Pay 2008 were mailed last Friday or Saturday with payment due by February 24, 2012. They could not tell me exactly when they were mailed because they have a service that does that for them.

Although the detrimental effects of these delayed bills are significant for commercial properties and economic development efforts, the impact on homeowners can be particularly devastating. With estimated bills, homeowners that have attempted to remain current on their property tax obligation, are still liable for any potential increases for 2007 Pay 2008, 2008 Pay 2009, 2009 Pay 2010 and 2010 Pay 2011; a total of 4 years with 2011 Pay 2012 extending this potential tax liability yet again. Any additional amounts due, may not only be a burden to pay but are significantly more than a one-time burden that is expected to be hanging over taxpayer’s heads for years to come.

With most lenders today requiring borrowers to escrow for taxes, any additional amounts due are going to require an increase in the monthly payments since the lenders by law are precluded from building a reserve necessary to cover this unknown obligation. This is not the fault of the banks and was most likely a consequence that regulators did not anticipate, since all Counties in Indiana (except La Porte) are now sending out current tax bills.

Another problem that has developed from this situation is the resulting lag in billing for tax parcels that have been split into additional parcels and improvements that have been placed on previously unimproved land. “Provisional” bills being sent may not show improvements which would result in significant future obligations for the homeowner who cannot reasonably anticipate what the final bill may be.

In the case of splits, new parcels may not even have been receiving tax bills resulting in agreements between parties to resolve who owes what at a later date.

A real estate broker with more than 26 years full time experience stated he could not emphasize enough how this can become a problem even if both parties to a transaction have the best of intentions. People move, people die and with either verbal assurances or assumptions that the dollar amount of funds in question is small, the amount may turn out to be much larger than anticipated leaving well intentioned individuals unable to pay.

This is in addition to the real risk of having made an agreement with someone who does not intend to fulfill their promises, leaving an innocent party to pay more than they originally planned.

The above issues, as serious as they are, do not consider the worry, anxiety and fear that a property owner may experience over not being able to pay their bills and possibly losing their property.

If one has only paid their property taxes by writing and mailing a check, they should go down to the Treasurer’s office at bill paying time and watch people stand in line, wanting to pay for the full year instead of the required half and willing to spend the additional time knowing that they will have a receipt in hand proving that they have paid.

Homeowners are being required to see their property tax dollars going to interest payments for money that had to be borrowed due to no fault of their own, meaning fewer funds are available to provide municipal services and a quality education for their children or their children’s children.

Are these homeowners going to be able to talk with pride about their hometown and tell their friends or their children, graduated from college and looking for a place to call, why they should consider La Porte County a good place to live that will provide the same opportunities and level of government service as other places they may choose to live?

Consider the urgency that is present in the situations described below:

Since 2008 the City of La Porte’s General Fund has not collected approximately $7.6 Million in property taxes. This $7.0 Million deficit is increased further due to a loss of $480,000 in Commercial Vehicle Excise Tax and Financial Institution Taxes from 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Over the past five years La Porte has spent $520,980 for interest on Tax Anticipation Warrants. The City has been unable to pay the Indiana Bond Bank the entire amount borrowed for 2009, 2010 and 2011 and owes over $3.4 Million in addition to the entire amount due for 2012.

The City of La Porte was also forced to borrow funds internally from the Major Moves Fund in the amount of $1.5 Million. The City of La Porte’s current outstanding debt is $7 Million. Drastic measures were necessary and impacted employees’ income and health insurance benefits. This information pertains to the General Fund only; there are other tax funds that have also been impacted.

La Porte Community Schools faces a similar dilemma.

Even in stable years, most school districts engage in short term cash flow borrowing. However, in 2008 and 2009 the need for borrowing increased due to the county tax fiasco. Interest costs amounted to almost $97,000.00. For the General, Debt Services, Capital Project Funding and Transportation Funds for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 unbilled or uncollected revenue is now estimated to exceed $15 million.

The situation at the library is much the same as it is for other governmental units.

We knew with the changes in the tax structure and the passage of the circuit breakers that the library would be losing tax revenue. These changes alone would have been manageable, painful at first, but manageable. Then the economy took a downturn and the assessment/reconciliation process began to have a significant impact on the library’s revenue. In 2008 we began some cost-cutting measures – hours at the Main library were reduced and the materials budget was cut by 30 percent and yet we overspent the revenue we received.

The hope was the reconciliation bills would resolve the deficit for us. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened. To date the operating budget has been overspent by cumulative total of nearly 1 million dollars.

The library has borrowed money to cover operating expenses in 2008 and 2009. The materials budget has been furthered reduced. It is now at 50 percent what it used to be. There have been changes to health insurance benefits similar to those implemented by the city.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The difference between what we do, and what we are capable of doing, would solve most of the world’s problems.” It is certainly true in the case of this man-made crisis facing us all. All that is needed is the willingness to compromise, put personal feelings aside, and reach an accord that is beneficial to the public.

The business community is fed up with the situation. We demand that our County Assessor, Country Auditor, County Treasurer, County Commissioners, County Council and the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) find a way to effectively and immediately put an end to the multi-million dollar financial disaster that threatens us. Resolve this dispute NOW!

Sincerely,

Blair Milo, Mayor

City of La Porte

Michael B. Seitz I.O.M., President

Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Glade Montgomery, Superintendent

La Porte Community School Corporation

Tom Larson, Broker Associate

RE/MAX Commercial Property Solutions

Fonda Owens, Executive Director

La Porte County Public Library
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post Mar 1 2012, 01:03 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...9b105286245.txt

QUOTE
Dermody turns to legislation to fix La Porte County's tax situation

By Matt Fritz
Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 5:08 PM CST
LA PORTE COUNTY — An area legislator is trying to hurry along the property tax reconciliation process in La Porte County with a new state law.

Tom Dermody, R-La Porte, said the legislation he introduced, part of Senate Bill 19, aims to give an incentive to local leaders to hurry and fix the property tax situation in the county while also protecting taxpayers.

"Number one is taxpayer protection," Dermody said during a phone interview on Tuesday. "The other goal is to get these bills out. Taxpayers, schools and local units are tired of this situation."

The bill was approved unanimously on third reading by the House on Tuesday, according to the House of Representatives website. It was then returned to the Senate with amendments.

*
He said the bill has three main parts: To incentivize locally elected leaders to speed along the reconciliation process, give local leaders the power to solve any problems holding up the process, and to protect taxpayers.

For the third goal, current law allows the county to offer payment installment plans of up to 12 months. The bill would extend it an extra six months without interest or penalty, and give them 45 days to get homestead exemptions after the 2010 bills go out.

This would also require the county treasurer to accept bank cards, credit cards and other methods of payment currently not accepted in the county.

In turn, the county would be able to offer taxpayers as much as 2 percent in discounts if they pay all their amounts up front.

The incentive measures are a little different. It requires the county to get the bills out by Jan. 15, 2013, if it doesn't want to pay any interest. If the county gets them out between that time and Feb. 28, it will owe $1 million in interest. And it will owe $1 million for each consecutive year there's delayed property taxes in the county, which could run up to $4 million.

This amount would be used to compensate local taxing units who have had to take out loans to cover expenses during this time.

Dermody pointed out that the city of La Porte has paid more than $500,000 in interest while the county's five school systems have paid a combined total of $3.5 million in interest.

"The goal isn't to get the county to pay interest," Dermody said, "It's to get the bills out on time."

It will also grant county commissioners the power to remove the county assessor and auditor from the reconciliation process if they stand in the way, and hire a "special master" to handle the situation in their stead.

"When we talk about jobs and a potential business comes in to look at the county and they ask what the property taxes are," Dermody said, "we have to tell them to come back in 2016. Enough is enough. We're past blame. It's time to solve the problem and protect the taxpayer to make sure they have the time to cover the bills."
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post Mar 5 2012, 08:51 AM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...37923786088.txt

QUOTE
Dermody’s property tax bill moves back to the Senate

By Gabrielle Gonzalez
Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, March 3, 2012 5:06 PM CST
LA PORTE — State Rep. Tom Dermody, R-La Porte, said Friday the blame game in the county’s property tax issue was getting old.

Dermody gathered with county officials and school superintendents at La Porte’s City Hall on Friday to discuss the need for passage of Senate Bill 19, which addresses La Porte County’s property tax issues.

“I’m baffled that this has been going on since 2007,” said Dermody.

The bill, which sets out a timeline and deadlines for the property tax reconciliation process in La Porte County, has moved back to the Senate from the House, Dermody said. Next week, the Senate will send it to a conference committee to “get it cleaned up,” including adding a “sunset” provision that would end it as law in 2016, Dermody said. It then needs approval from both chambers before going to the governor. La Porte County is the only county in the state that is not up to date on property tax bills.

*
Dermody said he felt the local units of government affected by the delayed tax billing have been very supportive of his efforts to get the tax reconciliation billing issue cleared up. “We can’t wait until 2016,” he said. “This isn’t about blame at this point. We have to do something. Nobody is going to like everything about this bill. I welcome any thoughts or comments.

“But the taxpayers deserve better than this. And local units of government shouldn’t have to borrow and pay interest on money that should have already been collected by the county.”

The bill contains incentives for county officials to get bills out in a timely manner. It requires the county to get the bills out by Jan. 15, if the county wants to avoid interest charges. If the bills go out between that time and Feb. 28, the county will owe $1 million for each consecutive year there are delayed property taxes in the county, up to $4 million.

That money would be used to compensate local taxing units who have been taking out loans to cover expenses while waiting for their tax money.

The bill would extend taxpayer payment installment plans of 12 months for an extra six months without interest or penalty and give homeowners 45 days to get homestead exemptions after the 2010 bills go out.

The bill would require the county treasurer to accept bank cards, credit cards and other payment methods currently not accepted. In turn, the county would be allowed to offer taxpayers as much as a 2 percent discount if they pay the entire tax amount up front.

The meeting Friday had county officials not only focusing on the slogan “enough is enough” but stressing the impact the billing delays have had on the county. According to the officials, the tax issue puts the county in a negative light when trying to attract new businesses and new residents, who see budget problems throughout the county, including at the schools their children might be attending.
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post Mar 5 2012, 08:53 AM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...0f101038516.txt

QUOTE
County officeholders and candidates puzzled by Dermody bill

By Tim Moran
Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 5:08 PM CST
LA PORTE COUNTY — Some parts of Senate Bill 19, recently amended by State Rep. Tom Dermody, R- La Porte, to provide incentives for county officials to issue reconciled tax bills sooner, are not sitting well with current county officials or those seeking county office.

The problem, according to La Porte County Councilman Matthew Bernacchi, is that the only individuals who would be hurt from the penalties enacted if bills are not sent out on time are the citizens and taxpayers, the very people the legislation was introduced to help protect.

“That has a negative impact,” Bernacchi said. “There are a lot of other things involved with the process so solely blaming the county is the wrong thing to do.” He added that more communication between elected officials and the software vendors involved in the process is needed.

Bernacchi says the problem goes beyond the county and that the state of Indiana has not offered much assistance since the reassessments were made.

*
He says the new legislation, which would charge the county $1 million in interest per year if the reconciled tax bills are not sent out before Jan 15, 2013, would not only hurt the taxpayers (who would collectively be responsible for that amount) – but also the area’s schools, police and highway departments as they are some of the benefactors of the funds collected from tax bills.

“I’m glad Tom (Dermody) is stepping up to the plate – but what we need are answers about the right way to go about this,” he said.

Councilwoman Lois Sosinski, who along with Bernacchi is seeking re-election this year, says the lack of uniform software has added to the problem and agrees that the county is not the major party at fault for the situation.

“It’s good to have deadlines, but it would be better if the state could lend us a hand instead of posing penalties,” she said.

Sosinski also says the penalties, which could add up to $4 million over a four-year span, would fall on the taxpayers if the deadlines aren’t met.

“The taxpayers have had enough burden paying taxes and for bills that are already going up,” she said.

Dave Biela, a Democratic County Council candidate, said that burden could come to $36 a person over the next four years if the maximum penalties are enacted.

“Taxpayers such as elderly residents and people on fixed incomes are going to have to pay that rate if the county does not come up with a solution during that time,” he said.

The former Michigan City councilman also said the “language” of Dermody’s amendments has already been on the books for more than three decades.

“Home rule states that the executive body can undermine an agency in their jurisdiction,” he said. “The dilemma was not the taxpayers’ fault and it is wrong to impose the penalties on them.”

Another part of the bill now before the state Senate would give the La Porte County Commissioners, the county’s executive branch, the power to remove the county’s treasurer or auditor from the reconciliation process if they stand in the way.

County Treasurer Nancy Hawkins finds that, and other portions of Dermody’s amendments “surprising.”

“I find it surprising that Representative (Tom) Dermody can presume to write legislation to resolve a problem without visiting the county offices to find out what actual problems we are experiencing in trying to reconcile these bills and what problems are keeping us from moving faster,” she said.

She wonders if the legislators are truly doing what’s best to protect the taxpayers’ interest.

“I worry not only about our seniors and unemployed citizens but I also worry about how the homeowners will handle their monthly mortgage payments when their bank has to double or triple their payment to make up the huge deficit caused by paying five tax bills within one year from their escrow account,” she said.

The treasurer, who also seeks re-election this year, says she is unsure why she and other elected officials need incentives to resolve the tax situation.

“We have been working diligently to reconcile these tax bills while continuing to conduct our day to day business,” she said. “We want to be caught up and back to a normal tax cycle as much, if not more, than everyone else.”
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post Mar 9 2012, 12:05 PM
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Blair Milo
FLASH, FLASH, FLASH, GREAT NEWS! The Indiana House of Representatives passed SB 19 with the amendment 95-0 last night and just moments ago the Indiana Senate passed it 36-14! Thank you very much Rep. Dermody, Senator Arnold, and Rep. Pelath for your dedication to getting solutions for La Porte County! We now have a framework to get us back on track with our property taxes by early next year and stop wasting money on interest payments to keep government entities operational.
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post Mar 9 2012, 09:11 PM
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Let's get the tax bills straightened out and get ALL of the tax bills in the mail. We have been screwing around with this issue for far too many years. The balance of the state views LP County as a bunch of uneducated idiots!
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post Mar 16 2012, 01:51 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...ff060261049.txt

QUOTE
Property tax bill heads to governor’s desk

By Julie McClure
Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012 5:06 PM CDT
MICHIGAN CITY — A bill designed to create incentives for La Porte County officials to speed up the property tax reconciliation process, and to protect La Porte County taxpayers in the meantime, made it through both the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Senate last week and is now on its way to Gov. Mitch Daniels for approval.

Rep. Tom Dermody, R-La Porte, said Saturday he is hopeful Daniels will sign the legislation, but had no timetable as to when that might happen.

Dermody’s bill has three main parts, which include incentives for locally-elected officials to speed up the tax reconciliation process, to give local leaders the power to solve problems that are delaying the reconciliation process and to protect taxpayers.

The incentives give a deadline for the county to get the bills out by in 2013, and requires the county to pay interest if it does not meet the deadline. The interest penalties are substantial, $1 million for each consecutive year there are delayed property taxes in the county, up to $4 million. That amount would be used to compensate local taxing units who have taken out loans to cover expenses during the delays in billing and disbursement.
To protect taxpayers, the bill requires La Porte County to offer payment installment plans of up to 18 months, without interest or penalty, and gives taxpayers 45 days to get Homestead exemptions after the 2010 bills go out.

The county’s treasurer would also be required to accept bank cards, credit cards and other methods of payment currently not accepted by the county.

On Saturday, Dermody said this is an opportunity for La Porte County to catch up with the rest of the state. La Porte County is currently the only county that is not up to date on its property tax assessments and billing.

“Politics were set aside on this,” Dermody said. “We were working with state officials and local elected officials and our elected leaders said ‘enough is enough. Let’s put blame aside.’”

Dermody hopes this framework will provide enough protection to taxpayers as the reconciliation process speeds up.

“Taxpayers can question their assessment and if they do owe the tax, they have the right to question it,” he said. “And the bill allows them to get a deduction (the Homestead exemption),” he added. “The county council has the opportunity to spread out the bills with the payment plan for taxpayers, and that is without penalty and without interest.”

Dermody said the county now has a year to work on the plan.

He is planning on providing a summary of all the points of the bill to county officials within the next couple weeks.

This legislation, along with other bills passed during the session, will be discussed at the Indiana Third House Session from 7:30-9:30 a.m. Friday at Purdue University North Central, 1401 S. U.S. 421, sponsored by the Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce. Reservations are requested by Tuesday by calling (219) 362-3178, info@lpchamber.com or (219) 874-6221 or info@mchachamber.com.



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post Mar 19 2012, 10:49 AM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...e7846757325.txt

QUOTE
Candidate opposes Senate Bill 19

Published: Friday, March 16, 2012 5:07 PM CDT
I am voicing my opposition to the recently passed Senate Bill 19.

The language used in the bill is a repeat from prior legislation. I am opposed to the prospect of penalties that over four years could equal $144 for a family of four or the possibility of a $36 obligation assessed to each of the 111,450 citizens of La Porte County, whether they are taxpayers or not.

Indiana Title 36 Home Rule provides powers and duties to our county leaders as to local government affairs. Title 36 Home Rule was enacted in 1980. IC 36-2-3.5 provides solutions and responsibilities of how our tax problems could have been approached by the County Commissioners when the problems first surfaced. Two of the three bullet points in Senate Bill 19, signed by the governor, is a duplication of existing language regarding powers and duties that are now law under Title 36.

The tax assessment problem was allowed to get out of control over recent years and only now the current county officials are addressing it properly.

I advise prospective candidates at the state and local levels to research Title 36 to see the solutions that have been available to county officials since 1980 pertaining to the efficient operation of county government. Unnecessary penalties and additional burdens should not be inflicted on to the backs of La Porte County taxpayers.

Dave Biela

Michigan City, IN


http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...15564644424.txt

QUOTE
Auditor explains property tax bill delay

Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012 5:06 PM CDT
I, Craig Hinchman, La Porte County auditor, am writing today to address the ongoing tax situation which plagues our county.

The facts: The tax situation is not simple to solve, that’s why it hasn’t been fixed sooner. People act as if the county officials have been sitting doing nothing to get moving forward.

For the last 26 months, this has been the top priority of all involved to bring La Porte County taxes up to date. The offices have other numerous daily tasks that must be completed in a timely manner. The auditor, treasurer, assessor and their deputies along with county council members and commissioners have had several meetings to try to get problems resolved. It seems like when one problem is solved, it creates another problem to be resolved.

About a year ago, the state auditor, the State Board of Accounts and the Department of Local Government Finance requested a meeting in Indianapolis to discuss the tax problem. All three state agencies have control over the tax bills and the agencies wanted all to be on board with any solution. A commissioner, a councilman, assessor, auditor, treasurer and their deputies, IT director and also representatives from the software vendor and Tyler Technologies (assessing vendor) attended the meeting. At that time, two solutions were offered. One was to continue billing one year at a time or trying to bill all four years at once. We chose to continue doing one year at a time. Also, the state wanted an estimated time schedule which they said they would not hold us to, just an estimate.

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No other county has ever been ordered to re-assess after issuing a tax bill, collecting and gone through settlement. This order of re-assessment was done back in 2006 by the Department of Local Government and Finance.

Trying to regroup from this delay and also legal litigation that put everything on hold for over a year has been a burden on all three county offices and has made catching up almost impossible.

We are all trying to resolve issues that seem to plague our county as we continue to move forward.

Craig Hinchman

La Porte County Auditor

La Porte, IN
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post Mar 19 2012, 12:16 PM
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Ok. If I read Biela right, he is saying that the taxpayers are going to be fined for late tax bills. Is that correct?

Regarding Hinchman; that was very nice of him to explain why it's taking so long. Most people probably don't care about the why, they just want it done and over with. (I for one really need it done and caught up because it's affecting my escrow!) Personally, I think it was very good of him to take the time to try to explain the situation.


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post Mar 19 2012, 12:38 PM
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QUOTE(Ang @ Mar 19 2012, 01:16 PM) *

Ok. If I read Biela right, he is saying that the taxpayers are going to be fined for late tax bills. Is that correct?

Regarding Hinchman; that was very nice of him to explain why it's taking so long. Most people probably don't care about the why, they just want it done and over with. (I for one really need it done and caught up because it's affecting my escrow!) Personally, I think it was very good of him to take the time to try to explain the situation.


Biela is right. The money will just come out of another fund.
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post Mar 26 2012, 08:58 AM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...39105783063.txt

QUOTE
State auditor wants a Republican to run for La Porte County auditor

By Deborah Sederberg
Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012 5:06 PM CDT
MICHIGAN CITY — Indiana State Auditor Tim Berry took a few moments to discuss the La Porte County tax situation when he was in Michigan City Saturday for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the Republican Party of La Porte County.

Just last Thursday, he said, his office authorized the county to distribute to local taxing bodies the money raised from the 2007 tax bills, payable 2008.

Berry said he hopes to change that situation. "I hope to find someone in this room (at the Republican gathering) to run in the fall,” he said.

In December of 2010, Berry said, he had a meeting with Brian Bailey, the Commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance. Following that meeting, he and Bailey sent Democratic auditor Craig Hinchman and Democratic treasurer Nancy Hawkins an e-mail detailing three plans from which they could choose to "get current" with local tax bills. "We had no response," Berry said.

"One year ago today, (March 24, 2011) we got together (with Hawkins and Hinchman)," he said. The La Porte County officials chose a plan that gave them until April 2014, the longest time period offered by the state. "We are a year from that meeting," he said Saturday, and "already, they are six months behind the schedule.”

Former Democratic City Council member Joie Winski is challenging Hinchman, and Hawkins is facing Pam Kieft in the Democratic primary in May. No Republicans filed to run for either office.

The new legislation written into Senate Bill 19 by state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-La Porte and signed by the governor, could cost the county up to $4 million in fines if county officials do not meet the deadline.

Essentially, the county will be fined $1 million for each consecutive year the taxes are delayed. The money is to be given to the units of government for interest payments, as they must borrow money to cover expenses while waiting for the property tax distributions.

The point is that the various governing bodies have spent money on interest to borrow money to pay their bills, Berry said, and now it’s time for the county to pay the fines.
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post Apr 3 2012, 01:12 PM
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http://thenewsdispatch.com/articles/2012/0...37068234648.txt

QUOTE
County officials react to Dermody law

Amendment was signed by Governor last week
By Matt Fritz
Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, March 31, 2012 5:06 PM CDT
La PORTE COUNTY — A new law aiming to speed up the property tax reconciliation process in La Porte County is already seeing some results in the county, said Commissioner Ken Layton.

The law, an amendment to senate enrolled act (SEA) 19, came into effect last week when it was signed by Governor Mitch Daniels.

Developed by Representative Tom Dermody (R-La Porte), the law is designed to encourage county officials to fix the property tax issue in a timely manner or face penalties.

Dermody said the county won’t have to pay a penalty back to local units if property tax bills are sent out by Jan.15, 2013.

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“I feel good for the tax payer of La Porte County and the local units of government,” Dermody said in a phone interview. “Hopefully this will be another incentive to get caught up and for businesses coming to La Porte to have accurate tax info. People want us creating jobs.”

If the deadline isn’t met, SEA 19 will require the county to pay $1 million to local units of government that took out loans for late and uncollected property taxes. If the bills are still not sent out by Feb. 28, 2013, the county will have to pay $4 million over a period of four years.

Layton said he is supportive of the bill, although he doesn’t agree with all its provisions.

“It has started things moving in the court house in an attempt to comply with the law that I haven’t seen in years,” he said. “I’m not in favor of the penalty phase. It’s asking the county to come up with a million dollars that I don’t know quite frankly how it’s going to come up with. We haven’t got any tax statements either.”

He said county commissioners (along with the county auditor, treasurer and assessor) met twice already with representatives from the state auditor’s office, the department of local government finance, the state board of accounts, the settlement deputy for the state of Indiana and the vendor of the county’s computer tax program.

A timeline to complete the process before the Jan. 13 deadline was developed as a result of the meeting.

Layton said he doesn’t expect the county to pay any of the penalties.

But La Porte County Treasurer Nancy Hawkins pointed out that it will cost the county no matter what happens, because the additional manpower to complete the reconciliation on time will require more help and overtime hours.

“I think it will be a major challenge for us to meet these deadlines,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of long nights and long weekends for our employees, and I’m not sure how long they can sustain that kind of work schedule.”

She said some offices have already received council approval for more employees, and she expects to ask for more overtime money to cover her expenses.

The new law will also give the County Council authority to allow taxpayers six months or more to send in their payments or set up a payment plan. Additionally, the county will be prohibited from placing a property on tax sale for at least one year after the payment deadline.

According to a press release from Dermody, the council will have the option of granting a tax credit of up to two percent of delayed property taxes if the taxes are paid within 30 days. To make payments easier, the county treasurer will be required to accommodate individuals using a debit or credit card.

Another measure in the legislation allows the county commissioners to remove the treasurer, auditor and assessor from the property tax collection process and appoint a ‘special master’ to handle the duties. The commissioners will directly oversee the person responsible for property tax collection.
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