Wednesday, January 23, 2008

House Democrats Strip Referendum Requirement From Tax Bill

The people in charge of re-electing a Democratic majority in the Indiana House of Representatives are going to have a tough time with a party-line vote which took place during the second reading debate on HB 1001, the comprehensive property tax reform proposal recommended by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Amendment Number 72, offered by Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend), exempts most school construction projects from a public referendum requirement. Unlike most states, Indiana allows local governmental bodies, such as school districts, to approve bond issues funded by property tax levies without first obtaining the approval of the voters through a referendum.

Niezgodski claimed during debate that necessary school buildings would not get built if the proposal remained in tact according to the Star's report on the deliberations. "Do you think the people we serve are stupid or dumb?" Rep. Jeff Espich asked Niezgodski. Of course, Niezgodski replied, "No." Nonethless, this vote could quite effectively be used against Democrats in tight races this November. I'm surprised House Democrats strung their members out on this vote. At least Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jim Schellinger, whose architectural firm has made millions off school construction projects, can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that the House Democrats are fighting to preserve his bottom line.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it true that Ohio just had to put aside $5 billion in a fund to repair and maintain the schools which taxpaying voters refused to pass a referendum for? Do we really want that?

I agree that we often have some communities like Carmel which build sumptious buildings because of their tax base. Others in rural or urban Indiana teach/ learn in substandard buildings with serious code violations. Evening that out won't be an easy one-size-fits-all solution.

That's what school boards are elected to do. And they should take the heat if they propose too much. If they don't, then how mad were the taxpayers really?

Anonymous said...

The blatant disrespect last night that the Legislature showed for what the people want and their rights, is nothing short of appalling. Its time this runaway government was put back on a leash as was intended per the constitution.

Anonymous said...

Well, the current remonstrance process works fine. I would like to see stronger laws that forbid the schools from taking pro-active steps in the process. The schools themselves should set the plan. Then only people acting as individual taxpayers should do the remonstrance thing. Out where I lived, we destroyed a building spree that focused way too much on sports in a time when money is way too tight. I think it was something like 85% vs. 15%, shooting the building plan down. The problems were that teachers were using public monies to print copies of the pro-building forms and a handful were sending them home with students. The schools (or maybe stupid parents) set up tables for pro-building plan, yet never once extended an offer to the anti-plan group.

This really only means one thing: We will be right back where we are now in just a few short years. The school junkies will figure that since mortgage payments went down (while taxes for goods and income went up), people hopefully won't notice the switch. Well, that means they will try to push their Taj Mahal building plans through. Under the current plan, my property taxes could go right back up to where they are now.

If we don't get hard caps on school construction, spending, and design, I will not be able to spend any money in the local economy. If any school kids come to my door and ask for a dime for some school related function, I plan on giving them a copy of my tax bill with the school portion circled. I will tell them to ask their teacher for my donation.

Anonymous said...

The apocolypse must be close. Jeff Espich muttered something smart.

Seriously, there are good arguments on both sides of this chorus. This fight is going to be the sum of its skirmishes, and this is only one. More to come. Posturing.

Schools statewide, not all but too many, have abused their bonding authority too long. For projects favored by superintendents who are too cozy with architects. WIth too-often-questionable educational value.

Sometimes, as with our kids, when they wander too far from the core, you have to smack them back hard, to make sure the middle where they end up, is palatable.

Taxpayers who want complete referenda on all construction projects are unreasonable. But a certain threshold is likely and smart: $2 million seems fair, adjusted for inflation into the future. Or some ratio of gross budget to construction project cost. And don't let them slip in the back door (Example: threshold is $4 million, superintendent wants a $6 million project, so he splits it into 2 $3 million projects...clever by half) (And they'll DO that)

To the school districts who have been good stewards of their funds over the decades: sorry, but you have to pay the penalty along with your wayward brothers and sisters.

But the number of school districts who have been good stewards is small.

Anonymous said...

AI, Thanks for the vote record.

I just sent the following e-mail to our representative, David Orentlicher


My wife & I were extremely disappointed in you recent anti-taxpayer vote for Amendment Number 72, offered by Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend).

This amendment exempts most school construction projects from a public referendum requirement, and seems to us to be clearly a vote in favor of the current anti-taxpayer, pro-developer system.

We had hoped to support your run against Andre Carson in the primary, but we need representatives who represent us, not the big donor developers.


M Theory said...


It's the BOND DEBT !

This is not one bit surprising.

M Theory said...

Anyone who wants to get networked with the activists and help is welcome to call.

Indiana's situation is far worse than likely any of you can even imagine. The closer we get to exposing the nut of the cause, the more desperate the legislators will become.

We need more people involved. There is plenty to do.

Please email and send your phone number.

We will personally call you to get you in the loop with how you can help. We hold meetings often.

Our network of citizen activists is pretty amazing and all of us are business professionals.

Anonymous said...


Three of Washington Township's school board members do not understand that bond debt has to be repaid.

Anonymous said...


That is completely untrue.

Anonymous said...

12:31, it is a little inflamatory to say that. BUT: here's what the majority of that baord, and its appointed superintendent, did do:

They negotiated with legal remonstrators to put a cap on a recent bond issue. It included specific limits on individual projects underneath a $50 million cap.

When a pool, one of the first projects, came in 14% over budget, what did they do?

The board broke its written and moral promise to the remonstrators, bu passing the inflated budget for the pool.

So no, 11:40, the current process does NOT work just fine. There is no punitive action for boards who abandon agreed-upon limits. These negotiations were in good faith, and included much give-and-take. The remonstrators, for example, agreed that a new pool was needed, within budgetary limits.

If the remoonstrators had not given in, and agreed to the settlement, they would've forced a full-blown remonstrance. Which would not have prevailed. The first step in current law only demands that there be a cooling-off period...then petitions begin.

So, a few pool parents ginned up this phoney "Stand Up For Washington Township" campaign, which intimated that unless you supported the new expensive pool, you were against the school system. It got pretty ugly. The board vote was 4-1. Only Mr. Greg Wright voted with taxpayers.

The venom used by the pro-pool folks was unreal. The sweeping generalities they employed were unconscionable. And, frankly, not a good example for students.

The real loss was the good-faith negotiating process. These folks didn't keep their word.

There will be more amendments and the process at the legislature will continue. Try not to get so bent out of shape when one piece of the plan goes down. The overwhelming sentiment is still to ave sharp reform of the tax process. Be a little patient.

But anyone who says the current resmonstrance process works, has not observed reality. It does not work. Especially when folks break their word.

Anonymous said...

THe people that think Daniels' plan is going to sail through this process without a scratch are nuts. Have you even read it all? I'm not sure it's even good.

Legislation is like sausage, we get the best we can from bad ingredients and prefer not to know how it all got done.

Anonymous said...

1:35 is filled with information that is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...


Usually, in a debate, the opposing side offers rebuttal evidence contradicting the argument(s) presented by the first presenters. That wouldn't include any type of rebuttal saying, "wrong, wrong, wrong".

You don't agree, it's only fair that you provide your evidence as to why you don't agree.

Anonymous said...

Washington Township PRO-TAX people in disarray!

1. Incumbents on the Washington Township School Board flee!

All three incumbents on the Washington Township School Board are NOT running again for School Board in the May, 2008 elections.

2. Very few people want to run on the PRO-TAX Parents Council Slate!

The Parent Council of Washington Township, the PRO-TAX supporters of the $183 million Strategic Plan which includes NO educational benefit, has had their slating meetings on Jan 16 and 17. Cid McNeilly, Chairman of their Slating Committee, is “mortified” that they only have two candidates to run for the three open slots on the School Board. She is still searching and trying to recruiting a third candidate.

By the way, Cid is an architect and whose architect-husband works for CSO, the architectural firm who designed the $183 million Strategic Plan that the current school board endorsed at their Dec 12 meeting.

3. One PRO-TAX Parent Council Candidate could have a conflict of interest!

Is one slated candidate a PAID Staff Member, Head of the Team Parenting Program? If this is a conflict of interest, or what? Is this slated candidate an act of desperation by the PRO-TAX Parent Council?

Anonymous said...

Not that it makes that much difference but how many high schools in IPS have swimming pools?

I feel your pain Washington Townshipers but did you really need to have that swimming pool in the first place?
I suppose North Central High School also has artificial turf on their football field as well.

Anonymous said...


I was there. I was involved. Nothing stated here is incorrect. The school board and remonstrators entered into an agreement to end the bond remonstrance last year. It included a gross cap and individual project limits.

The board then negated its agreement. Which is a kind way of saying welched on the agreement.

When the remonstrators met the initial threshold, they could've refused to talk to the administration, and a full-blown remonstrance would've ensued. Which the administration would surely have lost. Instead, the remonstrators negotiated for weeks, in good faith. They conceded several points they weren't necessarily in favor of, to get a compromise agreement. Which was later broken by the school board.

I don't know about you, but in business, when someone lies or breaks an agreement, I rarely go back for seconds.

You really ought to bone up on the facts before you spout off one-sentence misnomers.

It makes you look less foolish.

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

4:44, Arsenal Technical HS has a pool (indoors, in a natatorium). I can't answer about other IPS schools.

Anonymous said...

"The Parent Council of Washington Township, the PRO-TAX supporters of the $183 million Strategic Plan which includes NO educational benefit, has had their slating meetings on Jan 16 and 17. Cid McNeilly, Chairman of their Slating Committee, is “mortified” that they only have two candidates to run for the three open slots on the School Board. She is still searching and trying to recruiting a third candidate.
By the way, Cid is an architect and whose architect-husband works for CSO, the architectural firm who designed the $183 million Strategic Plan that the current school board endorsed at their Dec 12 meeting."

Now we know why Jim Taxschillinger is running....$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

Well, look on the bright side. If the Democrats and the schools get their way, we will likely have zero property tax relief. OK, maybe some short term relief, but the schools will quickly start demanding more and more now that property taxes dropped and some folks will be well under the cap.

The burn-off of Marion Co. is going to be glorious to behold. May Washington Township Schools be blessed with a thousand Section 8 conversions!

Anonymous said...

The pool at Tech High School is probably 50 years old or more. Washington Community School also has a pool and it is also old. There are two other pools in the district and I believe they are managed by Indy Parks.

I'm not sure, but I think most of the school districts in Marion County (and in the surrounding counties) have at least one swimming pool.

About the referendum language--it HAS NOT been eliminated. A referendum will still be required for sports facilities, including pools. A referendum will not be required for building academic facilities or updating existing facilities.

Anonymous said...

And to Anon 7:34--

I'm not sure how you define "natatorium", because Tech does not have one. It has a buildng with a pool in it.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that "natatorium" is Latin for "a building with a swimming pool in it".

The point was to illustrate that a natatorium has not always been considered a luxury for a school district.

Tech also has what was once a deluxe football/track stadium and a carillon tower. A new auditorium/theater was built in 1973. There are tennis courts on the campus, too. All those improvements were funded by the taxpayers and once weren't considered luxuries.

It's hard to fault suburban districts for building things that have long been accepted as "normal" for top-notch high schools in Indianapolis.

I do agree that there should be public referenda on such projects, though, and I don't like the removal or scaling-back of that provision in the governor's proposal.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the bill eventually passed, but not without Craig "I want a piece of the pie" Fry voting for it.

What is wrong with him??

The House Republicans have a great post about it on their new blog.