Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 17, 2013

Public eye - Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

By Ken de la Bastide and Scott Smith
Tribune columnists

Not this year

Proposed legislation that would lower the personal property tax depreciation floor from 30 to 20 percent and a second bill to eliminate the tax will not be considered by the Indiana General Assembly this year.

Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, authored the legislation to lower the depreciation floor, stating at the Third House Session in January that it was filed only to start the discussion on eliminating personal property taxes in Indiana.

Kokomo and Howard County officials expressed opposition to the legislation with city officials estimating it would result in a $13.5 million shift from industry onto other property taxpayers. At the January meeting, Lawrence McCormack, city attorney, said the proposal could double property taxes for homeowners.

Buck said there are a lot of Indiana counties that are not dependent on personal property taxes. He said Illinois and Ohio have already eliminated personal property taxes.

Needing funds

The group opposed to the planned Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in northwestern Tipton County is preparing to make a presentation at the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing in an attempt to stop the development.

Tipton County Citizen’s for Responsible Development have hired a Fort Wayne attorney to represent them and are seeking experts in the area of property values and health to counter claims made by developer juwi Wind.

Last week the group met in Sharpsville and organizers told those in attendance they needed $25,000 to pay the attorney and experts. Thus far the group has raised about 50 percent of that total and need another $10,000 to $15,000.

Opponents of the wind farm were encouraged to wear white shirts to the BZA hearing on Feb. 25 starting at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Tipton High School.

How about a tax break?

If the farmers in Tipton County’s Prairie and Liberty townships weren’t standing to profit enough by leasing land to the Prairie Breeze project, the project would also lower their property taxes, according to a consultant’s study released by the county Wednesday.

Agricultural land already receives a substantial property tax break in Indiana, with land assessed for tax purposes at a rate well below market value (land last year was assessed at $1,630 an acre).

According to the study, farmers would see property taxes drop around $2.81 an acre if the wind farm goes through. For someone with 500 acres to farm, that’s a $1,045 a year savings.

Dumb lawsuit of the week

Everything these days is someone else’s fault. Take, for example, Juanita DeJesus’ lawsuit against the owners of Gary’s minor league baseball team.

After losing sight of a foul pop-up during a game in 2009, and having it hit her on the head, the plaintiff sued, alleging the team should have put protective netting “continuously from first to third base.” A Lake County court found in her favor.

Friday, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, saying the plaintiff had failed to prove liability.

Further, the court said the team has no duty to place screening down the base lines, but only around the area behind home plate.

With players now hard at work in spring training, the timing of the appeals ruling couldn’t have been better.