While Indiana's Inventory Tax may be close to elimination from Clay County's books, the County Council made a rather controversial move by tabling a vote on that tax's removal earlier this month.
Though earlier talks seemed very conducive to deletion, the Council decided to hold the vote back at least a month to review new information afforded to them. The meeting on the tax, which occurred Monday, Oct. 6, came close to ending in a shouting match after the Council's five-to-one decision to hold back on a vote.
Robert Hostetler, the only spectator in the meeting to voice a negative opinion on the tax's removal, believes that the Council did the right thing by stalling to process new information.
"I'm not necessarily saying that the Inventory Tax isn't unfair," he said. "But I can see this from all three viewpoints. I was the County Auditor a few years ago. I am a homeowner, and my father (local pharmacist Lynn Hostetler) owns a business, so I can kind of see it from all three sides.
"I didn't tell the council which way they should vote, and I'm not going to. I'm just saying that there's no real time limit here, as long as they vote by the end of the year, so it's best to let things pan out and see every bit of information they can."
Hostetler's biggest argument is that taxpayers will not be paying any less taxes, as inventory money lost will be redistributed to other taxes.
"I was told that it's an elimination of the tax, but that isn't true," he said. "It's a tax shift, not a tax elimination. People are going to have to make it up on their Property Tax or elsewhere. I'm not saying yes or no on it... it may be the best thing for Clay County and Indiana, but we need to get all the facts we can first."
State Representative Brooks LaPlante, who also attended the meeting, believes that the tax's removal is a great way to jump-start Clay County's economy. LaPlante called The Times Monday to expand upon his previous arguments at the meeting:
"I was struggling for the number of households in Clay County at the meeting," LaPlante said, referring to the "but a good number is 10 thousand plus.
"At around 12 thousand people, the increase on property tax would be around $12 a year. A dollar or less a month. I mean, I can think of a million things I spend a buck a month on. The elimination is worth that kind of investment, definitely. For the opportunity for Clay County to do something that no other county in West Central Indiana has, it's definitely worth it."
Daryl Andrews, County Commissioner and owner of the Clay City A & W, also believes that removing the tax is in everyone's best interest.
"People opposed to removing the tax are kind of short-sighted," Andrews said. "I'm definitely in favor, the reason being that this is ultimately great for business. In the end, if more businesses come and throw in more to the 'tax pie,' it's going to reduce property tax for everyone."
Andrews also said that the fact that he owns a business doesn't sway his opinion about the tax either way.
"The amount of Inventory Tax that I pay is negligible," he said. "It doesn't really affect me. There are people like Larry Moss (a councilman) who don't own a business but are opposed to keeping the tax.
"There are no disadvantages to removing that tax. I can see lots of disadvantages by not removing it. We'll be two years behind all of the other counties that are progressive enough to have done it now."
As of now, 16 Indiana counties have removed the tax of their own accord. Hostetler said that this is for a reason.
"A lot of counties are simply playing the waiting game with the state, seeing how hard the reassessment's going to hit," he said. "That's a smart move. Why would you do something this big without knowing the full impact? I want to know why some people are pushing so hard to get this through without knowing everything they can."
In the end, however, the final call is in the hand of the County Council. The group is scheduled for more discussion (and a possible vote) on Monday, Nov. 3. Andrews said that last month's meeting probably isn't a sign of future votes:
"It's fortunate that we have council members who want to rid the tax. They're progressive, and just sorting out bad info."
He explained that some initial numbers given to the council by a consulting firm were overcalculated and probably too high.
"They just wanted to make sure everything's good and in order. That's commendable."