[r49] Rep. Ulmer Column on Property Taxes (7/26/2007)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Start Date: 7/26/2007 All Day
End Date: 7/26/2007

(STATEHOUSE) July 13, 2007 - The property tax situation in Elkhart County and around the state has gripped everyone's attention and rightly so. It is wrong that homeowners went from an average zero percent increase last year in property taxes to a countywide average increase of 35 percent. Instead of placing blame, we need to come up with solutions. This week my House Republican colleagues and I proposed five different ideas that can provide immediate relief for taxpayers.

The five options that we proposed include:

Deferral of Residential Tax Increases

. Call for local government officials to allow homeowners to pay only the amount owed in 2006 or earlier, with increases paid in installments, waiving all obstacles, fees or penalties. Call for the Department of Local Government (DLGF) to continue to vigorously analyze discrepancies in current property tax bills.

Homestead Credit Filing Extension

. Call for local officials to allow those that missed the Homestead Credit filing deadline to reapply with the credit being given on their 2007 fall bill and ensuring that these taxpayers receive both the Homestead Credit and Homestead Deduction on their 2008 bill.

Immediate Reassessment in Counties Where There are Apparent Gross Discrepancies

. Call for the Department of Local Government Finance to order immediate reassessment in counties where there are apparent gross discrepancies.

Resurrect the House Republican Local Government Reform Plan

. Creates incentives for adoption of alternative taxes replacing property taxes dollar for dollar. Requires referenda approval for all major construction projects. Includes additional homestead credits for residential taxpayers.

Provide Direct Relief to Residential Taxpayers - Drop the Rebate

. Distribute property tax relief money to counties and direct that they apply the amount of the property tax rebate to residential taxpayer bills that showed increases due this November.

Most of these options can be done administratively without going into a costly special session. I am confident that these options will be able to cut into the increases that homeowners are facing.

While it is essential that we look at immediate property tax relief, it is more important to fix the long-term problem of property taxes. The House Republicans have created two ideas for long-term property tax relief. We believe that outside experts should come in and study various options for Indiana property taxes. The goal of the nonpartisan panel will be to find a way to eliminate property taxes, or at the least, residential property taxes, in a manner that is fair to taxpayers. Another long-term plan, which we have suggested for the last three years, is for the state to take over child welfare costs from the county. Currently, the state runs almost everything related to child welfare, but it charges the county government for the money to operate. These steps can result in much needed reform of Indiana's property tax system.

As always, I encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact my office. I am more than willing to help with anything that I can. I am here to work hard for you and hopefully you will have an opportunity to see this for yourself. You can either call me at 1-800-382-9841 or you can e-mail me at H49@in.gov.