While there has been considerable discussion in the mainstream media about the sharp increase in property taxes statewide due to the first reassessment in 6 years--a 24% increase according to the Legislative Services Agency--there has been no discussion of what is happening in Marion County. The Indiana Legislative Insight's Ed Feigenbaum drops this bombshell. He reports that homeowners in Marion County will see an average increase of 25% in their tax bills, while businesses will see little or no change. Feigenbaum writes:
Estimates appear to show that residential assessments across Marion County will increase more than 25%, relatively consistent with surrounding counties, but the vast majority of business assessments there have not changed since the 2002 reassessment . . . unlike at least two surrounding counties (business values increased, on average, by more than 25% in Hamilton County and almost 20% in Hancock County). In Marion County, preliminary numbers suggest business assessments increasing by single-digit percentages.Even more troubling is the fact that "60% of the business assessments" in Marion County haven't changed since 2002 according to Feigenbaum. He notes that there were a lot of complaints 5 years ago that the business assessments came in too low, causing a shift in tax burden to homeowners. The timing of this news could not be worse for Marion County homeowners. "Rising property taxes combined with the steady number of foreclosures, rising interest rates and a projected decrease in new housing starts could have disastrous effects on the Indianapolis housing market (and developers gripe that unsold houses are not treated as inventory, as e.g., a car dealer’s unsold vehicles would be)," Feigbenbaum writes.
Say what? Apparently the positive business climate, expansions, economic growth, rising commercial property value since 1999 (the valuation date for the 2002 assessments), and trending has been overlooked locally, leading to concerns that such minuscule increases in business assessments, combined with the 2006 elimination of the inventory tax, will likely produce larger than expected tax shifts to homeowners across Marion County.
So how could Marion County's township assessors fail us so badly? It might be easy for the newly-elected assessors to blame their predecessors, but Feigenbaum says not so fast. "With many fingers are pointing to the township assessors in office from 2002-06, some are also questioning why some of the incumbent assessors have failed to make corrections since January," he writes. "In the midst of this, the new Marion County assessor is trying to assert more control over the assessment process, and, not surprisingly, is finding some pushback from the majority of township assessors," Feigenbaum adds. "Some are also questioning why the Department of Local Government Finance so quickly approved Marion County’s ratio study . . . a move that prompted complaints from assessors across the state," he concludes.
Maybe this explains why Marion County's tax bills aren't being mailed until June. Perhaps someone didn't want this devastating news to Marion County homeowners to hit while the legislature was in session (and somebody might actually do something to address the mess) and before next month's municipal primary election where voters could express their outrage.
I think the time has long since past to turn the job of assessing property over to real professionals. Let's stop leaving this critical task to unqualified political hacks. Let's eliminate township assessors, along with all township government in this state.