Property tax revenue declines in Delaware County IN
Collection efforts improve, assessment of taxes comes under fire
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - While local government billed more property taxes in 2013, collections continue to decline over the last five years.
And that $83.4 million in property taxes collected by Delaware County Treasurer John Dorer represents an 89.4 percent collection rate reflecting better efforts to collect delinquent taxes.
The actual increase in taxes charged last year, reflected an increase in assesed property values and new construction like Grove Apartments on McGalliard Road.
Property tax caps imposed in 2009 also were fully paed in last year, and reflected a slow decline in collections from $101 million in 2008 to $83 million last year.
That $83 million is shared among nearly 40 taxing districts for schools, government and other public services like sanitation, transportation and athe local airport.
Those caps coupled with a decline in manufacturing base over the last decade have left county government and Muncie schools in debt and borrowing money to pay payroll and expenses when tax revenue falls short.
Muncie and Yorktown governments are cash flush and operate without borrowing money.
County goovernment continues to work on collections and reinstituted a certificate sale of property besides the fall tax sale for delinquent taxes.
The issue of reassessing property that can also drive up revenue and who does it causes some controversy this week when Delaware County Commissioners awarded another multi-year contract to PSC Associates, a local firm run by former state accountant Charles Ward. That $1.2 million job involves reassessing every home, business, farm and other property over the next four years.
PSC had the low bid, explained Delaware County Assessor James Carmichael, who has used PSC to reassess property ever since he was elected more than a decade ago.
Carmichael told commissioners PSC had the lowest cost and was acceptable to the state that also oversees local reassessment.
Businessman Tom Terry objected the county paying PSC more while it was still doing current reassessment.
Carmichael said he did not want to get into a political argument about the contract, and James King, president of the commissioners, gaveled Terry out of order after he raised more objections about the rising cost.
The commissioners had been approrached by former township trustee Steve Fields, challenging Carmichael in the Republican primary, who wanted the contract delayed until ater the May 6 primary.
Fields said the county was broke and did not have the money for private reassessment. He proposed to use public staff in Carmichael's office and also reinstitute informal hearings to work out disputes in reassessments.
Growing numbers of property owners have filed appeals to across the board increases in property values that some believe are imposed by Carmichael to make up for loss revenue from tax caps.
Carmichael said that is not true and each property is assessed on its own condition and value.
Fields said there was no reason the contract had to be awarded before the May primary since it does not take effect until July.
And he said many property owners want to see drastic changes in how property is assessed. Fields holds a Level 3 assessment certificate required by state law of county assessors. Carmichael is grandfathered with a lower certification and has always used a private company, like his father, Gary, who also was county assessor.