The Indiana Dept. of Local Government Finance has posted information about the Wishard referendum you won't learn reading the flashy but misleading handouts the proponents of the new hospital are distributing with the headline, "A New Wishard Without A Tax Increase," or the news coverage in the Indianapolis Star. The pertinent information you need to understand as a property tax owner is how much will it cost me. When you go into the booth to vote on the Wishard referendum, the question you will read doesn't tell you how much a new hospital will cost, how it will be paid for, how long it will take to repay or how much it will cost you as an individual taxpayer. It doesn't even tell you the purpose of the referendum is to construct a new county hospital.
According to the DLGF's public notice on the referendum, the maximum increase in the debt service fund tax levy will be $54,807,604 annually. If it becomes necessary to tap property taxes to pay for the new hospital, HHC will be authorized to levy a tax increase of as high as $0.1494 per $100 of assessed value. For a homeowner living in a home assessed at $200,000, you can expect to pay as much as $300 annually in higher property taxes. Equally important for you to understand is that this tax levy is not subject to the state's property tax caps. IPS residents are already paying higher taxes for last year's school bond referendum. This will make that tax increase look like peanuts.
If you're like me, you supported Greg Ballard's election in 2007, in part, because he opposed higher taxes. He opposed the 65% increase in the local option income tax, and he promised to fight for the repeal of property taxes. After he got elected, he made the income tax increase permanent, even after the State picked up Indianapolis' huge public safety pension liability as part of a 1% increase in the state sales tax, he supported the $27 million a year tax increase and borrowing plan to bail out the Capital Improvement Board, he has pushed double-digit rate increases for water and sewer, he wants to raise parking fees, and he's raised a host of other fees. To add insult to injury, Ballard is pushing adoption of the Wishard referendum but is chiming in with the proponents in falsely claiming that it proposes no property tax increase. He also promised to end the big public give-aways that personified the Peterson administration. That didn't stop him from pledging more than $20 million of your tax dollars to help political contributor Tadd Miller develop his retail/housing project downtown. Had enough Indy?
UPDATE: The Indiana Law Blog has a good point on the discussion of the HHC using nursing home revenues to finance the construction of the new hospital in the context of the recent discovery that the state budget law may have intentionally or unintentionally exempted all nursing homes from property taxes.
The question is this: Have these private nursing homes in other counties applied for the 10-year retroactive property tax refund discussed in earlier ILB entries from Oct. 4th and Oct. 3rd, under the headings "Requests for retroactive property tax exemptions threaten county budgets" and "Did an amendment to this year’s state budget open the door to tax refunds for nursing homes across the state?"
If so, and if the refund efforts are successful, other counties' property taxpayers will be paying for the Wishard expansion.