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Tax Court upholds agency's loan decision

January 1, 2008
The Indiana Tax Court has upheld a state agency's decision approving loans to fund fire department operations in a Morgan County township.

In Virginia Perry and Gregg Terhune, et al. v. Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, et al., No. 49T10-0712-TA-78, the court affirmed the DLGF's approval of two Madison Township loans - a reduced $409,000 emergency amount for operating expenses and $650,000 for new vehicles and equipment - that the petitioning taxpayers didn't want to pay for in 2007. Those taxpayers argued on appeal that the agency misinterpreted statutory provisions and ignored evidence, but the court disagreed and also pointed to underlying local political issues at play during that time.

An argument on appeal was that the township's firefighting fund was insufficient to cover department expenses, not because of an emergency but because of a "poorly-timed" decision by local officials to transition the fire department from paid/standby to career/full-time status.

A footnote at the end of the 11-page opinion highlights the difficult position Tax Judge Thomas G. Fisher is often put in for these types of tax cases.

"The Court is mindful of the political rancor surrounding this litigation. Nevertheless, it is not a function of this Court to determine whether Madison Township's transition to a full-time fire department, or its purchase of additional vehicles and equipment, were good policies or bad policies. Rather, this Court can only decide whether the DLGF's loan approvals were supported by substantial evidence and in accordance with the law.
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