Treasurer aims to send property-tax bills by June 1-WEB ONLY

Marion County Treasurer Michael Rodman is scheduled to deliver an update today on distribution of long-delayed local property-tax bills worth a combined $1 billion. He now expects to put the bills in the mail by June 1.

Rodman, a Democrat, will make his presentation to the City-County Council’s Administration and Finance Committee at 5:30 p.m. Local officials have repeatedly delayed final 2007 property-tax bills as they’ve scrambled to deal with a $1.85 million countywide property reassessment Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered in July 2007.

Daniels argued Marion County had consistently undervalued its commercial and industrial properties, leading those parcels’ owners to pay unfairly low property taxes.

Many local business owners weren’t happy with the reassessment’s results, complaining they don’t reflect the accurate market value of their properties.

Marion County has 22,557 business parcels. Commercial and industrial property owners in Marion County subsequently filed 6,503 appeals, which are now slowly being processed. Marion County also has 12,977 residential property-assessment appeals on file. That’s about 4 percent of the county’s homes.

Rodman said his office now expects to send its final 2007 property tax bills to taxpayers at the start of June. Once the bills are received, property owners will have 30 days to pay them. Rodman said he’s hopeful his office will then catch up on the next cycle and deliver the first of two 2008 property-tax bills in October.

But there are several steps that could trip up the Treasurer’s office and delay the bills again. Rodman said he’s still waiting for certified tax rates from the Marion County Auditor and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. And once the rates are certified, each of Marion County’s 60 local units of government – the recipients of property tax revenue – has the right to appeal them.

“The last couple of weeks, things have gone pretty smooth. But there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. Things can happen,” Rodman said. “Everyone’s working as a team. I feel pretty good that we’ll be able to get the bill out in June
with a due date in July.”

Rodman said one of the biggest delays has been reconciling the differences between the work of nine local township assessors. Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes, a Democrat, assumed all their duties after passage of a ballot issue last November calling for consolidation of the duties at the county level.

“Some of them left their shops in pretty good shape and some didn’t. So the County Assessor has had to pick all that up and get it into shape. Hopefully this will be the last year we’re dealing with that problem,” Rodman said. “Some of the township assessors, a couple of them did a very professional job. And some of them didn’t do a good job at all. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Indiana’s much-publicized new property-tax caps will not apply to the June reconciliation bills. Rodman said the October bills would be the first affected by the caps, which will establish a 1.5-percent ceiling on every home’s assessed valuation, with a 2.5-percent cap on rental properties and a 3.5-percent cap on businesses.

In the following year, the caps are scheduled to drop to 1, 2 and 3 percent. Legislators in the General Assembly are currently debating whether to permanently enshrine the caps into Indiana’s constitution, as well as whether to phase them in more quickly.

Rodman’s presentation will be followed by City Controller David Reynold’s update on local government finances in the first quarter of 2009.

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