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Property owners can expect late tax bills this year but early pay’s OK

County officials say property tax bills will be late this year and predict those bills won’t make it into mailboxes until after Aug. 1, if not much later.
The tax bill will also serve as a notice of the assessed value of the property, and residents will have 45 days to appeal the value after receiving their bill.
The late tax bills will do more than just cause residents to wait for their bills and pay them much later in the year. The county will also have to wait to get the first installment of property tax revenue from the state, which has caused school districts in Harrison County to borrow money. It could also limit the amount of revenue the county will have.
To remedy this, Harrison County Auditor Pat Wolfe is urging residents to go ahead and pay their bills.
‘If they pay ahead of time, people could get advances,’ Wolfe said referring to entities like the school systems.
If residents pay their property taxes in advance, the county can give a percentage of the amount to the school systems.
‘Schools normally collect an advance if we’ve collected some money,’ Harrison County Deputy Auditor Heather Metcalf said.
Treasurer Carol Hauswald said 563 people have paid their property tax bills in advance since last year.
Hauswald said she encourages residents to pay any amount or even an amount based on the previous year’s tax statement.
‘It will help (the school districts) out a little bit,’ Hauswald said.
The amount paid will be shown as a credit on the tax bill which will be sent out later in the year.
If the amount is more, Hauswald said, residents can get the amount credited on the next tax bill or receive a refund.
(For the amount of the last tax bill, contact the treasurer’s office at 738-2348.)
The county normally gets two installments of property tax revenue following the two collection dates for property taxes that residents pay each year.
Usually, tax bills are mailed out at the end of March and include amounts due for the May 10 and Nov. 10 collection dates. Settlements to the county are then issued by the state in June and December.
So far this year, the local school systems have already taken steps to avoid a disruption in revenue since they will not be collecting the first installment of property tax revenue until September, at the earliest.
If settlements are going to be issued late, the school systems borrow money to keep afloat, something that is becoming more common across the state.
North Harrison Community schools borrowed $5 million earlier this year; Lanesville has borrowed $1.5 million; and South Harrison has borrowed a little more than $2 million.
North Harrison Supt. Monty Schneider said essentially all their funds were tied in with the property tax revenue. A third of their county general account ‘ the fund which pays salaries ‘ is from property tax revenue.
Schneider also said when the school system has to borrow money, it only passes increased costs onto taxpayers the following year due to the interest related to the borrowed funds.
Lanesville Supt. Dr. Phil Partenheimer said Lanesville has had to borrow money for the last several years due to late settlements.
‘Each year the board appropriates enough money to cover a loan,’ Partenheimer said of the interest and fees associated with borrowing.
South Harrison Supt. Neyland Clark said he expects South Harrison to have borrowed close to $3.8 million by summer. South Harrison school trustees approved that amount late last year, but the school corporation has yet to borrow the full amount.
‘We’re watching our numbers very closely,’ Clark said.
The delay this year is due to a state-ordered change in the way counties assess property, called a ‘trending’ analysis which is based on market values. The state moved to a market-based system in 2002 after a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1998. Similar systems are already used in 48 other states. Many counties have been experiencing problems with the new system and getting assessed values for properties, which has cause bills to be mailed late.
Metcalf said the school systems are not the only entities effected. She said in the past the county has given some offices, like the Dept. of Family and Children Services, loans or advances from riverboat revenue.
Metcalf said the county shouldn’t be affected too much by the late settlement since the county’s funds are placed in one account which includes CAGIT funds (county income taxes), riverboat funds and other funds from the state.
Metcalf said a fund, like county general, may be in the red, but the county still has money since all funds are kept in one account.
When settlements are late, counties that do not have large amounts of revenue ‘ like Harrison County due to the riverboat ‘ normally borrow money or have to suspend services until the next installment is made.