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Clark County loses request to impose excess property tax levy

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Noting that the Clark County Council made the conscious decision to not levy the maximum amount of property taxes allowed by statute for the 2008 budget year, it cannot now claim that decision is somehow a data error that the Department of Local Government Finance could later correct, the Indiana Tax Court ruled Wednesday.

In Clark County, Indiana v. Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, 39T10-1102-TA-9, citing a nearly $4 million rainy day fund in 2007, the council decided not to tax homeowners the maximum amount permitted by law because it wanted to “take some of the burden off of the homeowners.” The DLGF advised the council at that time that such action would negatively impact what the county would be able to levy in the future based on a formula in the statute that incorporates a “use it or lose it provision.”  

The formula is cumulative in its effect. The “maximum permissible ad valorem property levy” calculated under the formula in one year provides the starting point for calculating the successive year’s “maximum permissible ad valorem property levy.” That provision has since been removed.

Clark County argued that the DLGF abused its discretion by arbitrarily and capriciously determining that the council did not make a data error, correctable under Indiana Code 6-1.1-18.5-14, when it approved its 2008 property tax levy for $2.7 million less than what was statutorily permitted. Second, Clark County argued that the DLGF contravened the law when it failed to apply retroactively the 2011 statutory amendment that eliminated the “use it or lose it” provision from the formula contained in Indiana Code 6-1.1-18.5-3. Third, Clark County claimed that the DLGF violated its due process rights.

Statute allows for correction of an objective error only, not a subjective error, Judge Martha Wentworth wrote. Despite the DLGF’s warning, the council proceeded to approve the property tax level for less than what was statutorily allowed in 2008.

“This was not an ‘error in data,’ nor was it even an error in interpreting data. Instead it was simply a failure on the part of the Council to plan for budgetary contingencies.”

The statute was not amended to eliminate the “use it or lose it” provision retroactively, Wentworth held. Also, the statute does not require DLGF to hold a hearing on Clark County’s level appeal and since the county did not provide any other legal analysis to support its claim that it has been deprived due process, Wentworth declined to reverse the DLGF’s final determination on that basis.

 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

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