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Township trustees’ days are numbered

Harrison County Assessor Lorena Stepro is about to take on more responsibility. Come July 1, when the duties of the elected township and trustee assessors are turned over to the county level, Stepro will assume full assessing duty for the county.
The realignment is a result of the property-tax relief and restructuring law passed by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year. The law includes shifting property-tax assessment duties to the county level in townships with less than 15,000 parcels, which includes all 12 townships in Harrison County.
Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter declared earlier this month township and trustee assessors will continue to receive their full salaries this year even though their assessing duties will be terminated beginning July 1. The reform package did not cut short the terms of township assessors or pull their salaries when it was passed by the General Assembly.
‘For the hundreds of township assessors wondering about their future, we believe this opinion should ease their minds,’ said Carter. ‘While the legislature had the authority to cut short the terms of township assessors, it chose not to do so, allowing the assessor position to remain until the end of its current term. Additionally, Indiana law makes it clear that township assessors who will lose their position on July 1 will not lose their annual compensation,’ he said.
Carter also recently addressed questions about dual officeholding if a township assessor is hired as a deputy county assessor.
‘A person may hold both the office of elected township assessor and deputy county assessor position without being in violation of the dual officeholding prohibition,’ said Carter.
This may be of particular importance to Stepro, who hopes to hire Harrison Township Assessor Gerald Saulman. Stepro plans to ask the Harrison County Council for funds to pay three more employees after the July 1 takeover.
‘That’s what I’ll start with,’ she said. ‘Hopefully it will be enough.’
The turnover will not come without opposition. A township assessor in Huntington County filed a suit earlier this month claiming the law is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by Joan Stoffel, the elected Huntington Township assessor.
According to state records, there are 829 township trustee assessors in Indiana.
All trustee and township assessor records must be transferred to the county by July 1. Stepro requested a PODS storing system to contain all of the township and trustee records, some of which date back to 1937, until they have to be destroyed at a later date.
‘We’ll only keep it a month or two at the most,’ said Stepro.