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Republicans outline plan to ease reassessment woes

Friday, August 22, 2003

TERRE HAUTE -- Though property tax problems may be plaguing some Hoosiers, relief could be on the way soon.

House Minority leader Rep. Brian C. Bosma and Rep. Brooks LaPlante (District 46) and Rep. Andrew Thomas (District 44) held a press conference yesterday to outline a plan that they hope will aid those in need of assistance with their property taxes after the recent reassessment.

"People have had their property tax go up as much as four times from its original," Bosma said. "The time for blame and finger pointing is over. The time to fix the problem is here."

Bosma outlined five proposals, which he sent to O'Bannon in a letter last Tuesday. Timeliness is of the essence, he said, because some people may face catastrophic taxation under the new reassessment.

"Some people say the requests are extraordinary," Bosma said. "But extraordinary times call for extraordinary action."

Here are the five items, copied verbatim from the letter to O'Bannon:

1. Installment Payment Option: Automatic approval of county requests to offer an installment payment option to property taxpayers whose bill increased by 10 percent or more. Installment plan applies only to amount due in excess of pay 2000 tax liability plus qualifying threshold (at least + 10 percent). County officials should have discretion to set more rigid eligibility criteria, if preferred.

2. Late Payment Penalty Waiver: Automatic approval of county requests to waive 10 percent late payment penalty for property taxpayers whose bill increased by 10 percent or more. Penalty waiver applies only to amount due in excess of 2002 tax liability plus qualifying threshold (at least + 10 percent). County officials should have discretion to set more rigid eligibility criteria, if preferred.

3. Appeal Filing Extension: Unilateral extension of assessment appeal filing deadline from 45 days to 90 days after notification of new assessed value. Allow county officials to seek additional extensions beyond 90 days, if preferred. Effective for 2002 Pay 2003 assessments only.

4. Limit Appeals Buffers: Prohibit assessed value set-asides in excess of 2 percent, as buffer against successful assessment appeals, when setting a county's budgeted assessed value.

5. Retroactive Application of Homestead Credit/Deduction: Grant all homeowners that failed to file in time for Pay 2003 taxes a second chance to receive this relief. New deadline for homeowners to file for this immediate relief would be Sept. 30 with counties allowed to seek an extension.

Bosma also said that there had been no timeframe set for a response from O'Bannon.

"We may have to seek to call a Legislative Session in November," he said. "But the earlier we can get these proposals on the books, the better."

Though Bosma laid out the plans, both LaPlante and Thomas had something to say regarding the situation.

"I have talked to city officials in my district, and school officials," Thomas, the Brazil resident, said, "and everyone is concerned with the effects of the new reassessment because it's hard to plan for the next year without knowing the figures."

"For southern Clay County," LaPlante said, "we have older farms and homes which are going to be impacted when the tax comes. There will be some shock when property taxes double or triple from the past, and the taxpayers will need to transition, but there are positive times ahead.

"I can't see the impact, good or bad, until the taxes all hit, but I'm assured there will be people that aren't affected, people that are positively affected, and people that are adversely affected."

Bosma said that he has spoken with some county officials who are "reluctant" to adopt the plans.

"I just think that they have some current problems with the reassessment," he said.

In the end, the results have fallen into O'Bannon's hands, and the rest of Indiana can only wait on his decision.

"If there's something that we can do to help taxpayers in this situation," Thomas said. "It's only fair that we do."



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