Property owners in Marion County's poorest neighborhoods faced the largest percentage increases in assessed values and tax bills before a storm of public outrage compelled the governor last week to order a recalculation.
An analysis by The Indianapolis Star found that four of the five neighborhoods that would have been hardest hit are predominantly black, and the median household income in all five is well below the county median of $40,421.
The analysis also found:
• Three of the hardest-hit areas were in Washington Township, two in Center Township. Taxes on single-family homes in those areas jumped an average of 100
percent or more, compared with a countywide average of 23.6 percent.
• Only 13 percent of the county's neighborhoods have a median household income of less than $25,000, but 30 percent of the highest property tax increases and 40 percent of the highest assessment increases were in those neighborhoods.
• Seven of the 10 wealthiest neighborhoods had the lowest percentage increases.
Experts say there are many reasons for these findings, and some are doubtful whether the reassessment Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered last week will significantly lower tax bills if assessors use the same processes and data.
This revelation is absolutely stunning. Democrats have been in charge of the city for 8 years and now control every single county-wide office, except for the prosecutor's office. We are told the Democratic Party does more for the poor and minorities, but their own fiscal policies are putting at risk the city's most vulnerable residents. I guess it should really come as no surprise. Time and time again Mayor Peterson and his Democratic-controlled council have placed the interests of wealthy business owners over average residents.
Larry DoBoer offered three reasons why property taxes hit the poor the hardest: an Indianapolis Public Schools bond issue, which drove up bills; the elimination of the business inventory tax; and errors that showed business property values essentially frozen for several years while residential property values increased. "DeBoer said that poor people tend to live near commercial districts, so wiping out the business inventory tax had a greater impact on those areas." You can't blame Peterson and council Democrats for the IPS bond issue, but you can certainly blame them for failure to deal with the loss of the business inventory tax and ensuring propery was properly assessed. They control most township assessor offices and the county assessor's office. And they turned down a suggestion from the state that a COIT increase be implemented to offset the loss of the business inventory tax. I would note that the increase attributable to these causes, according to the Star's analysis, was the least in Franklin Township, one of the few townships still run by Republicans in Marion County. Democratic-run Center Township and Washington Township were hit the hardest.
At least one Democrat seems to understand what a big part of the problem is in Center Township. "[Marion Co. Auditor Billie Breaux said one factor that contributes to this is the higher number of tax abatements in Center Township, in which properties are assigned reduced taxes in exchange for contributing to economic development." "We paid so much attention to the fact that those in the richest areas had high increases that we failed to take a look at those whose bills, while not as high (in the dollar amount), but the percentage and the heartache was much greater," Breaux said. "And the ability to pay is much less."
It seems to me that Indianapolis' poor and minorities should be abandoning the Democratic Party in droves this year. The fiscal policies of the Democrats in control could not be more devastating on these folks. The Star story doesn't point this out, but many of these folks are living in rented homes. The landlords, who often have little invested in these low-income homes, simply walk away and abandon the homes if they can't pay the property taxes or the mortgage. Unsuspecting renters often continue paying their rent every month, only to get a notice from the sheriff ordering them out of their house. We're going to see a lot more homeless and abandoned homes in the near future if city and state leaders don't take quick action to address this problem.