Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 23, 2014

A united front

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — When the state’s constitutional property tax caps took effect in 2008, Indiana’s economic situation was a lot rosier than it is now, and it’s possible Hoosiers were more concerned about reigning in property tax increases than they were in collateral damage from the caps themselves.

The damage, however, has been pronounced for local governments statewide, which are now receiving around $2 billion less in annual property tax revenue than they were prior to the caps taking effect.

Part of this is no doubt due to the massive, recessionary deterioration in property values, but nonetheless, schools and local governments are struggling.

All of which brings us to the present day and the fight in the Indiana General Assembly over Gov. Mike Pence’s main agenda item, the elimination of business personal property tax.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight has been at the forefront of the opposition, which is unsurprising, given that the city of Kokomo would lose about $12 million in annual revenue if the tax is eliminated.

But as CNHI Statehouse Bureau chief Maureen Hayden notes, local officials from across the state have been remarkably unified in opposition, not only to full elimination, but also to State Rep. P. Eric Turner’s proposal to let individual counties decide whether to eliminate the tax.

At a media event sponsored by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Goodnight was joined by officials from towns where the elimination of the tax could very well be seen as an economic advantage, places like Nashville, Ind., where very little business personal property tax is paid.

Goodnight said Thursday that even in places which could enjoy a theoretical economic development advantage, local officials worry eliminating the tax would be counterproductive in the long run.

“It’s a losing proposition,” Goodnight said. “Even in communities that are currently not dependent on [BPPT], people realize that this is a long-term loss.”

If a business locates in a community, there’s a cost associated with providing local services to that business, Goodnight said.

“A business you may not even want in your community would get to settle in your community, essentially for free,” Goodnight said.

County-by-county elimination, he said, “Gives a city a leg up to provide free services, and to have the costs spread out among current residents.”

An SEO attempt?

About a year after former chancellor Michael Harris’ sudden exit at Indiana University Kokomo, a Twitter feed started up, the sole purpose of which appears to be tweeting links to old stories about Harris’ accomplishments at IUK.

The feed, @michaelharrisch, has been going strong for five months now and, as of Friday, had generated 1,420 tweets, most of them containing, for some reason, Harris’ former job title and a reference to IUK in the body of the tweet.

As an example, around 11 p.m. Thursday, in the space of an hour, the feed generated nine tweets, all of them variations of the sentence “Michael Harris Chancellor Leadership leads to More students choose IU Kokomo than ever before.”

There has never been any explanation of Harris’ departure, and none of these tweets offer anything remotely personal. The feed has only four followers, and did not respond to a request for comment. It’s all very, very strange.

Scott Smith is on Twitter @JasonSSmith1 and can be emailed at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.