Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 16, 2013

Letter to the editor - Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013

Peru is improving business climate

I noticed that Wayne Bunker sent a letter to your paper expressing his views about what Peru city government is doing. As famed radio personality Paul Harvey would say, “Now you will hear the rest of the story.”

Property tax collections are a concern in building any municipal budget. That budget is only as good as the total amount of tax collected. Unpaid taxes mean reductions in your budget, and a reduction in budget means reductions in service.

As mayor, I believe it is my job to keep the public informed on the financial status of our community. What Mr. Bunker calls whining, I consider keeping everyone informed.

The City of Peru, like many other communities, has noticed an increase in tax sales. Unfortunately, we have a large number of properties that are purchased in these sales that soon reappear on the sale lists.

There are individuals, or “investors” as Mr. Bunker wants to call them, who purchase property and make no attempt to improve these properties or to pay the taxes due. So they go back on a tax sale, and the cycle continues. The properties continue to deteriorate and, in many cases, end up on our demolition list. Now, it is up to the city to get the building torn down.

In the last quarter of 2012 we spent approximately $150,000 in demolitions. We have another $100,000 appropriated to finish those properties still on our list. These are taxpayer dollars that could be going to help other areas of our community or, if we did not need to use them for demolitions, we could also lower property taxes.

As mayor, I do not feel that the taxpayers of Peru should be responsible for the neglect created by those who wish to be “slum lords.”

Mr. Bunker also mentions “monitoring.” I believe he may be referring to a new plan I am looking to implement. That plan is designed to help reduce the number of properties that get purchased by individuals who have no intent of fixing the problem areas of these homes and let them continue to deteriorate.

This plan would allow for any property that has been placed on a tax sale or commissioners’ sale to be inspected by the building commissioner prior to the sale. The building commissioner would forward his/her finding to the county. The county would then announce the findings of these properties to interested buyers before they bid.

The items on the building commissioner’s report would have to be repaired before a “certificate of occupancy” would be issued. This would reduce the slum lord properties and improve the living conditions of those who rent these properties.

If Mr. Bunker is investing in these properties to help improve the neighborhoods, then he should not have a problem with this. We ask for these inspections on new homes or homes that are being remodeled. Why not these?

The City of Peru is not interfering in business ventures. We are trying to make improvements in the business climate. We are improving the infrastructure, appearance, incentives and quality of life of our community. These are items that any business or industry considers before making a decision on where to locate. If we are to compete in the economic development arena, we must be successful in our improvement efforts. These efforts take time and money to achieve.

If Mr. Bunker believes that making improvements to our community is bad for business, then we will always have a difference of opinion. I believe that making positive change will bring a brighter future. Obviously, Mr. Bunker is satisfied with the way things are.

Jim Walker, Peru mayor