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Assessor referendum sweeps Marion townships

November 5, 2008
Voters in eight Marion County townships overwhelmingly opted to consolidate duties of their local assessors and transfer the duties to the county assessor.

Warren Township had the lowest affirmative count, 57 percent, while Washington had the highest, 70 percent.

Results of the referendum question, "Should the assessing duties of the elected township assessor in the township be transferred to the county assessor?", were released this morning by Marion County Clerk Beth White.

The Legislature already decided the question in Decatur Township, which has less than 15,000 parcels, earlier this year.

Results of the questions from the largest townships in Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson counties were not available.

Central Indiana business leaders had uniformly supported assessor consolidation. So had both Republican Mayor Greg Ballard and his immediate predecessor, Democrat Bart Peterson.

The upshot: Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes now must absorb the township operations into his office. Bowes already oversees 17 people and a $1 million budget. He'll now add $9 million in budget and 132 former township employees.

Before the election, Bowes told IBJ he's mandated by law to interview every employee he inherits, but he's not necessarily required to maintain every job. Bowes isn't expecting immediate cost savings from the merger, although he thinks savings eventually will emerge.

Business leaders expect uniform property assessments will be the true benefit of assessor consolidation. Wildly disparate parcel valuations were at the heart of last year's property tax crisis. That's a problem they hope will be solved by central oversight of the assessment process.

Indiana Association of Realtors CEO Karl Berron was relieved by the results of Ballot Question One. Before the election, many had expected some individual townships to reject it, resulting in a confusing patchwork of control.

"That's a really, really big deal going forward," Berron said. "Property taxes are the underpinning of the local government financing system. If you can't get the most basic [assessment] number right, it makes everything more difficult."

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