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Since Howard County is one of only 10 Indiana counties that will collect property tax payments by the May 10 deadline, local officials are taking their case for needed tax relief to state officials.

County officials, joined by local businessmen and Realtors, presented their plea for property tax relief to Senators Luke Kenley, Brandt Hershman and Jeff Drozda and Rep. Jim Buck along with staff members of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Thursday.

Howard County Treasurer Martha Lake, County Assessor Jamie Shepherd, Center Township Assessor Sheila Pullen and councilmen Paul Wyman, Joe Pencek and Dick Miller presented to lawmakers the impact changes in the tax structure are having on residential property owners.

Residential property taxes are increasing by 20 percent to 50 percent in the county as lawmakers seek to provide some relief before the April 29 adjournment of the Legislature.

“We went loaded with lots of information on Howard County and how the increases are not being tolerated,” Lake said. “We asked them to determine the impact before they make any changes.”

Lake said lawmakers are looking to see if there is state money available to increase the Homestead Credit.

Local officials said one of the problems is that because most counties are not mailing tax bills, lawmakers are unaware of the impact on property owners.

Pullen said she was encouraged that the local officials were given the opportunity to be heard.

“Sen. Kenley understood what was happening here,” she said. “There is a realization that we are one the first large counties to have tax rates. Vanderburgh County, another large county, is experiencing the same problems.

“The property tax rates didn’t go down as expected by trending because of the credits given to business,” Pullen said. “The business credits are driving up the increase in tax bills for residential property owners.”

Pullen said lawmakers have to take some action by the end of April to provide tax relief to property owners.

“I would be disappointed if something isn’t done about this,” she said.

Wyman, who organized the meeting, said it provided local people with an opportunity to hear from Kenley and Hershman about their proposed tax relief bill and to provide information on the local impact.

He said the increases are the result of a loss of business inventory tax revenues, a decline in the state share of the property tax relief fund revenues and trending.

“We talked to them about some way to replace the lost revenues,” Wyman said. “The lawmakers were hopeful there could be some property tax credit passed to flow back to the local level.”

Wyman said any credit passed by lawmakers would be applied to the fall property tax payment in Howard County.

“We talked about a local income tax that would offset property taxes on a dollar for dollar basis,” he said. “More people would be paying in for the operation of local government.

Wyman said if property tax bills were mailed on time in all 92 counties there would be a statewide outcry.

“I believe we caught their attention,” he said of the lawmakers and governor’s staff. “They are aware of the problem.”

Wyman said the local group will continue to meet on a year round basis to address property tax reform issues.

“Next year is another legislative session,” he said.

Wyman said Lake, Shepherd, Miller and Pullen provided a lot of information to lawmakers that made the problem evident.

Ken de la Bastide can be reached at (765) 454 -8580 or via e-mail at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com

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