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New law requires creation of tax, projects review board

A new county board will be established pertaining to tax and budgeting by the House Enrolled Act 1478. All capital projects costing more than $7 million must be submitted to the ‘County Board of Tax and Capital Projects Review.’
Harrison County Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads explained the new law Monday night at the council meeting.
‘The legislators want to give more control to the individual counties,’ she said.
The board will review and approve tax rates and budgets for all units, starting in 2009, she said.
‘We need to get started on it next year,’ said Shawn Donahue, the council’s legal counsel, who added that the board must be in place by December 2008.
The new board will consist of two non-political elected members, an appointed council member, and the city and schools make the other appointments. The county auditor serves as the board’s secretary.
‘The board will have the authority to review budgets from all entities in the county and cut them if they desire, unless the county council denies them,’ said Donahue.
The county council may pass a resolution removing the board’s power to review all tax rates and budgets. Donahue, Rhoads and councilwoman Leslie Robertson recently attended the County Council Annual Conference on 2007 New Legislation in Indianapolis.
Other new laws include:
‘ HEA 287, dealing with County and Township Assessors. Effective in 2008, the assessor must have Level II certification to be eligible for election to the office. ‘This act will have a major effect in our county,’ said Donahue. If a township assessor or trustee assessor is not a Level II, real property assessments are to be assessed by the county assessor. If the real property assessing duties are removed from a township, the township’s maximum tax levy is to be reduced.
‘ Senate Bill 103 bans ‘serial meetings.’ It states that all members of governing body must be physically present at a meeting to count as being present and to participate in final action. One situation this would have affected was former Indiana University President Myles Brand’s actions with former head basketball coach Bob Knight. Brand would not have been able to avoid open-court meetings.
‘ House Bill 1001 which requires the state to reimburse trial courts, prosecuting attorneys and public defenders for costs of a new trial when the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court demands case for new trial. The maximum reimbursement is $50,000 per case and $1 million per year for the entire state.
In other matters Monday night, the council:
‘ Discussed interest earned from the riverboat fund, which has been going into the county general fund since December 2000. Donahue contends that the money was to stay in the riverboat fund.
‘It doesn’t matter how it got there,’ said Carl (Buck) Mathes, the council chairman. ‘We care about what we’re going to do with it.’
According to Indiana Code 36-1-8-9, money in the riverboat fund at the end of a particular fiscal year does not revert to the unit’s general fund. Once the interest money is deposited into the county’s general fund, then the county council has the exclusive authority to appropriate the funds.
‘We are responsible for the budget; the county council is the fiscal arm of government. We can use the interest to balance the budget,’ said Rhoads.
‘I’m working towards keeping that tax rate as low as I can,’ said Mathes.
County Commissioner James Goldman told the council that he just wanted to be informed. ‘I just want checks and balances,’ he said. ‘I would like for us to take what we need (from the riverboat fund) and leave the rest to grow.’
‘ Heard an update on the Harrison County Hospital project from Mark Shireman, who said that a water line from Quarry Road to the new facility is being considered, with the work to begin in September. Drywall work in the new hospital is 80 percent complete.