Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

May 18, 2014

Public Eye: Major clout and the new tax reality

Tipton County Commissioner Phil Heron got his day in the sun this past week, appearing onstage with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at the dedication ceremony for the new Tipton Transmission Plant.

Heron, the biggest casualty in the Tipton County primaries, probably had one of the best lines at the ceremony, saying “I just gave three of my minutes to Don Havens,” after the Tipton mayor wrapped his somewhat lengthy, but also very sincere, speech.

That drew a laugh, but the audience reserved the biggest applause for Tipton County native Brian Harlow, Chrysler’s chief of global powertrain manufacturing.

Harlow might have been slightly embarrassed to get more applause than his boss, but it took considerable agility by Harlow and people like Brad Clark, head of the Kokomo-area Chrysler operations, to convince Marchionne to locate needed additional capacity in Tipton.

That hard work was shown some grateful appreciation Tuesday, but Marchionne couldn’t resist a poke at hometown hero Harlow, noting that Harlow “has extracted about $4 billion from me” for various projects. That, friends, is called major clout.

The wrong conclusion

There is always a temptation to draw a direct correlation between city spending on a specific project and an increase in someone’s tax bill.

People inevitably draw these conclusions based on physical projects. No one ever attempts this kind of correlation over a 3 percent raise for firefighters, or over a hefty increase in the city’s insurance premium. It has to be something concrete: a baseball stadium, medians, a new city pool, etc.

But a property tax bill comes from multiple tax levies. The schools are responsible for part of the total tax bill. The county, the city, the township ... they all get a cut, and they all impact the total tax bill. One recent letter to the editor referenced an increase in a “city” property tax bill, when the author actually meant his entire property tax bill.

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