Local delegation talks taxes with the Gov

A delegation of officials from Northern Indiana had a chance to meet face to face with Governor Mitch Daniels on Wednesday, to discuss property tax reform.

The delegation represented county governments in the counties of St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall, LaGrange, Noble, and Steuben.

The meeting lasted about an hour.

While the session took place behind closed doors, officials were willing to discuss specifics afterward.

"We had a really good exchange," said Governor Mitchell E. Daniels. "They brought a position paper and I agreed with a vast majority of the points that were in it."

But did the delegation tell the Governor anything he didn't already know?

Elkhart County Commissioner Michael Yoder feels the answer is yes. In particular, his contention that immigration, or at least undocumented workers, continue to play a role in the property tax crisis.

"We have a significant amount of local option income tax being collected by businesses and sent to the state," Yoder said. "But if a worker does not file income tax return, we do not get those dollars back." Yoder estimates the total income tax revenue lost to Elkhart County is as high as $6 million per year, which in turn, puts additional pressure on property taxpayers.

Meantime, LaGrange County Commissioner Phillip Curtis said it's time for the state to take a closer look at organizations that don't pay property taxes because of their non profit status.

"There are groups that use it as a shield, and its time to review all of them," said Curtis.
"If they're legit, so be it, but if they aren't it's time to rework it."

The officials were also quick to blame schools for much of the property tax crisis. In fact, one commissioner said that's the reason St. Joseph County hasn't imposed a special option income tax---that is specifically designed to reduce property taxes.

"We don't want to sell the public on option income tax increase to offset property taxes and watch the school levy grow," said Commissioner Mark Dobson.

Commissioner Curtis referred to a myriad of school construction projects saying, "they're just being built to outdo the next corporation, and that's gotta cease."

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