Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hamilton County Wants Exemption From Referendum Requirement For $20 Million Judicial Center Expansion

The 2008 property tax reform law supposedly enacted as a tough law to control unbridled spending on new capital projects which saddle property taxpayers with large, long-term debt obligations. The threshold in the law applies to capital projects costing more than $12 million, but there is ample evidence already the law is useless. Nonetheless, State. Sen. Luke Kenley intends to help his fellow Hamilton Co. officials out by re-writing the law to allow county commissioners to approve a $20 million expansion of the county's 22-year old judicial center in Noblesville according to the IBJ. County officials think they deserve a break from the law because they plan to use up to $8 million in cash reserves for the project. This comes on the heels of the county approving four separate bond issues for capital projects totaling $45 million, three of which just came in under the $12 million threshold, including:
  • $11.9 million to buy real estate for Ivy Tech's Noblesville campus;
  • $11.8 million to construct a highway department storage garage, purchase other maintenance equipment and improve bridges;
  • $11.2 million to construct a multi-use storage building; and
  • $9.8 million for several infrastructure improvements.
Last month, the Indianapolis City-County Council gave the Indianapolis public library permission to issue $59 million in bonds for new construction projects, which skirted the referendum requirement by breaking the construction work into multiple projects over a several year period. Mayor Greg Ballard is now attempting to obligate taxpayers for at least $1.75 billion in debt over a 35-year period for a new criminal justice center using a public-private partnership agreement, which is apparently not subject to a referendum approval process. Ballard violated state law by refusing to make the RFP relied upon by bidders available to the public until after bids were submitted for final consideration. 

The City of Westfield recently skirted the referendum requirement for a $53 million sports arena being built through a public-private partnership agreement. Westfield officials ignored a state law requiring an RFP process, and the council deliberated on approval of the deal by conducting meetings not publicly-noticed under the state's Open Door Law. A private citizen is now suing Westfield officials to block the deal from going forward based on the Open Door Law violations. 

This is precisely why legitimate Republicans should be disillusioned in this state. The Republicans now have total control of the state and proclaim their support for smaller government and less taxes. Yet one Republican official after another can't resist the appetite to spend on pork barrel projects which saddle taxpayers with huge public debt obligations because they're more concerned about lining the pockets of their campaign contributors than protecting taxpayers from rising taxes. The notion that taxpayers are protected by the constitutional property tax caps is purely illusory. The law is full of holes, and when those holes aren't big enough to stop the tax and spending, state lawmakers simply create new ways to avoid them. Hamilton Co. should just do like Indianapolis and Westfield: Find a P3 vendor to build your damn justice center, pretend someone else owns it and treat the debt payments as rent. That won't require any change in law, even if it does cost taxpayers substantially more in the long run. 


Anonymous said...

What is the money supposed to be going towards? A new heating/ac system? New roof?

I was there the other day and
this building still looks 'new.'

John Accetturo said...

Steve Dillinger has been in office so long he has forgotten he is suppose to represent the taxpayers. So now he wants a law change so he can do whatever he wants. To say the he doesn't want a referendum because he wants to waste our tax money is the epitomey of arrogance. Hamilton County RINOs are out of control. A one party government spells trouble for the taxpayers.

Pete Boggs said...

Yes Gary! This state's been Republican "controlled" for ~10+ years & the result is more government & higher taxes; IN REAL NET TERMS.

There is no party of small / limited or Constitutionally reconciled government in Indiana; just one party going by two names. Statism is the gateway virus of tyranny.

In principle, there is no Republican party.