On Monday, Clay County Assessor Mark Barnhart and Treasurer Debbie James spoke to the Clay County Republican Club and other area residents at the Clay County Senior Center.
Republican Central Committee Chair Sharon Koehler told The Brazil Times the club is hoping to have more guest speakers as the year goes on, as no election will be conducted. Former Clay County Sheriff and current Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Rob Carter spoke to the group last month.
"We are starting to invite elected officials in the county to come and discuss what they do," Koehler said. "Plus, we hope to also have topics directly relating to the community to allow residents a chance to discuss what may be affecting them."
James opened up by outlining some of the responsibilities that come from the Treasurer's Office, like having to search for delinquencies attached to the accounts of public employees, regularly reconcile balances with each of the depositors the county uses and the collection of property taxes.
"Sadly, after we sent in the assessed values, we found out that there are a few counties who had theirs in before us and it doesn't look like we will be able to get property tax bills on time," James said. "If everything goes right from this point on, I would approximate the first collection would be sometime in the middle of June."
She elaborated by saying her office would continue to have local banks as drop-off locations for property tax payments this year.
"It worked really well last year, and while it does not cut down on the amount of work our office does, it is definitely a convenience to the taxpayer," James said. "Also, a couple of the new things we will have this year is that the rates will not include the school general and welfare fund, and the TS-1 comparison statement will show three years instead of the two that was on last year's bill."
While Barnhart also covered the scope of his office's responsibilities, he was more focused on potential legislation which may change the landscape of county government.
He raised questions regarding the potential removal of the county commissioners with a single county executive, who would appoint various other county positions which are currently elected.
"In my opinion, this is a dictatorship that takes away the voters' rights in county government," he said. "I believe there are some good things in the Kernan-Shepard report, but I don't agree that having a single county executive would be very effective."
Barnhart added the Assessor's Office is not only responsible for personal property assessments, but the Assessor is also the Inheritance Tax Appraiser. He then outlined the current reassessment which is being done throughout the county.
"This reassessment is being done over a four-year period with the help of Tyler Technologies, our vendor," Barnhart said. "Our county parcels needed corrected and I felt it would be more accurately done over four years rather than to complete it in one year. The total cost is $713,430, which averages out to $178,357.50 each year which helps the county to not deplete the reassessment fund."
Few questions were asked by those in attendance, but one was raised over the determination of how much farm equipment was taxable.
"Because it depends on the depreciation and what the value of the equipment is, it really depends on a case-by-case basis," Barnhart said. "Now if there are questions regarding the value of personal property, I encourage anyone to call me or stop the office and we will help you out."
While this was the second of what Koehler hopes to be an extended series, she was glad to see the people who are interested in how local government works.
"It is a great opportunity for input," she said. "Plus, it also provides room for discussions and differing opinions, and I appreciate the fact people are willing to educate themselves."
The Clay County Republican Club decided to cancel its April meeting in lieu of the Lincoln Day Dinner, set for Saturday, April 18, at 6 p.m. The dinner, which will feature Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, will be at Center Point United Methodist Church, with tickets available for $25 per person, or $200 for a table.
For more information, call 448-8081.