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Property taxes hot topic at legislative update

The 29th annual Legislative Update, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and Harrison County Farm Bureau, turned into a 90-minute property tax Q & A session Saturday morning at the Harrison County Justice Center in Corydon.
State Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, and State Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, were grilled on the hot topic by 110 residents and civic leaders who were on hand.
While a couple of other issues were brought up, they all took a back seat to property taxes.
‘Everywhere we go, property taxes are the No. 1 issue people want to talk about,’ Young said. ‘And understandably so. When we had to revamp Indiana’s property tax system, all of the data we received turned out to be bad data. We were told we would be looking at a 12- to 13-percent increase and it turned out that we were seeing increases of 30 percent or more.’
‘Since we are in our first year under this new system, I urge people who believe their assessments were off to appeal those assessments,’ Young said. ‘There are bound to have been mistakes made.’
Robertson reminded the audience that property taxes fund the local government. To reduce ‘ or eliminate ‘ property taxes would only shift the tax elsewhere or result in a loss of services. Ultimately, citizens should look for unnecessary spending by local government and schools to curtail some of the property tax issues.
Robertson cited a recent building project by Greater Clark County School Corp. The school corporation’s original design called for renovation work totaling $120 million; however, through several hearings, taxpayers voiced their opinion that the cost was too much of a burden.
More than $20 million was eventually trimmed from the project, but as Robertson pointed out, ‘The project, while still cutting $20 million, is ultimately going to raise the property taxes in that district.
‘And I know this may cost me some votes when I say this, but I believe the government in Harrison County has done a very good job in its spending and its controlling of its spending. The schools in Harrison County have done a very good job with their spending. The property taxes that we pay fund those things. Property taxes stay local.’
Tony Short of Corydon questioned Robertson about property tax rebate checks, asking why the checks required the payment of taxes.
Robertson said the checks aren’t overpayments per se, but Indiana General Assembly-approved rebates paid from moneys collected from the legalization and licensing fees of slot machines at racetracks in Indiana.
‘For those who file their taxes short form, they won’t have any taxes taken out, but for those who file long form, they’ll be required to pay tax on their rebate.
‘The rebate is coming from the state, and the next time around it should be an actual credit, so tax won’t need to be paid on it.’
Rusty Sizemore of Lanesville asked Young how Senate Bill 114, which prohibits forced annexation in the state, would affect Lanesville as it tries to grow a two-mile fringe.
The bill would allow cities and towns in Indiana to annex only when all property owners in the annexed area agree.
Residents wanting to be annexed could still petition the town with 51 percent of owners on board.
Indiana is one of only six states that allow involuntary annexation.
‘The bill would definitely make forced annexation more difficult,’ Young replied.
Other issues discussed at Saturday morning’s meeting included inventory tax, funding for schools and renewable energy.