Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 10, 2013

Buck seeks to change annexation procedures

Senator says goal is to level playing field

By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor

— With several Indiana cities considering annexation measures to expand boundaries, Sen. Jim Buck has introduced several pieces of legislation to protect property owners and small towns.

Kokomo is seeking to annex out to the new U.S. 31 Kokomo Corridor, Anderson wants to annex 21 square miles south along Interstate 69 and West Lafayette is looking to double its size.

“I want to level the playing field, make it fair for everyone,” Buck said. “Cities look to annex to retain class status to receive more matching funds or for more cash.”

He said in many instances, once a city annexes property, it creates Tax Increment Financing Districts, capturing all the tax revenues and depriving other taxing entities of the funds.

Two bills introduced by Buck, R-21st District, have passed the Indiana Senate are awaiting assignment to a House committee for further action.

One bill would create a one-mile buffer zone around smaller towns that wouldn’t allow annexation by a larger city. It passed the Senate by a vote of 43 to 6.

The second bill, which passed unanimously, would not make a waiver not to remonstrate against annexation unless it was signed after June 30. It would require that the waiver is not binding on a new property owner and must be included as a part of the title work.

Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-30th District, said he is unaware whether or not the bills would be given a hearing in committee.

“I don’t see a problem with recording the waiver,” he said. “It is all up to the committee chairman. It could depend on how many bills have to be heard.”

A third bill introduced by Buck which will restrict the increase of the tax levy and assessed value to a maximum of 15 percent at one time.

Buck said many municipalities are passing more than one annexation ordinance at a time and exceeding the 15 percent maximum already in state law.

“It was never intended for a municipality to grove the tax levy by more than 15 percent at a time,” he said.

The other bill will terminate waivers against annexation after 25 years, unless signed after June 30 of this year. Another would lower the number of signatures required in opposition of an annexation from 65 percent to 51 percent.

“I don’t know why they wouldn’t,” Buck said of committee hearings in the Indiana House. “I have got a lot of positive response from both political parties.”

Buck said the legislation to lower the number of signatures required on a remonstrance against annexation probably won’t be passed.

“The simple majority has always been a stumbling block,” he said. “It didn’t get a hearing.”

Buck said the voluntary waivers not to oppose an annexation in cases where cities are already providing services have been a problem for municipalities and property owners.

“A waive would be void if not included in the change of title,” he said. “The 25-year limit was used because most bonds to pay for sanitary sewers and other municipal services are that length of time. Once the bonds are paid off, it is pure profit for the municipality.”

Buck said there are a number of bills that the proposed annexation changes could be amended into before the end of the session.

“There is a lot of annexation going on around the state,” he said.

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