Sunday, December 7, 2008


This guest column was sent to us by the Voice of New Albany, a citizen watchdog group and fellow taxpayer advocates. Alot of similarities between New Albany and Hammond.

DENHART: Vote ‘No’ on LOIT tax

Local Guest Columnist

December 04, 2008 07:19 pm

— I am writing in response to Detective Paul M. Haub’s article on Nov. 21. First of all, no one in our city is against the police and fire department. Some city and county employees need to stop making this a personal issue.

Citizens for Accountability is against wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. We demand accountability to the taxpayers on how our tax dollars are spent.

LOIT tax should not be passed as it should not be a “bailout tax” for the city of New Albany. House Bill 1001 was designed to put accountability back on local government and not taxpayers.

There are normally two sides to an issue. Like I stated at the last Floyd County Council meeting, there are three sides — county’s, city’s and the taxpayers’.

The city claims they need more money, the county needs more money, but taxpayers need their money. The city needs to stay within its budget. Unlike the city, the county stays within its budget.

Our city of New Albany has a $16 million general fund and about 84 percent goes to police and fire. How can our city survive on about $3 million in our general fund? Can residents survive another tax?

Taxpayers are facing increased fees for sewers and stormwater in 2009. What you are saying to residents, Mr. Haub, is that residents should be penalized for working so our local government can spend more and tax us more? You work for the taxpayers, and the taxpayers don’t work for you.

The problem with local government is:
• Taxpayers have no accountability from local government
• No city take-home car policy
• No city cell phone policy
• City police officers no longer pay for gas
• City police officers use their cars for second jobs, shopping and errands
• Taxpayers pay for car insurance, maintenance and repairs on city police cars

We have officers on city and county councils voting for raises that affect their pay — is that not a conflict of interest?

Some police officers were supposed to retire and didn’t. Our top 20 paid employees in 2007 made $1.78 million?

Compared to other second-class cities, our police officers have an excellent salary and insurance package. So who is looking out for the taxpayers?

Indiana State Board of Accounts has listed violations by the New Albany Police Department for not keeping logs on mileage and cell phones for the last two years. We look at city financial reports and see the parks department spending $10,000 a month on cell phones. We can’t have much compassion for city employees. A few police officers and firefighters have been overpaid and never had to repay that money back. Nice bonus ... huh?

During the last 17 years, each new mayor has had his/her “feel good projects” at the expense of the taxpayers. Do we really need a statue for our city of Mr. Floyd or a new “Welcome to New Albany” sign? When money gets tight, police officers scream, “we need take-home cars,” and a majority of the officers live outside our city? How does that prevent crime in New Albany? Why is the police department not willing to make more concessions?

Officers received a 3 percent raise plus 1 percent longevity pay in 2007. It’s pretty sad when taxpayers see a former union representative stand before our City Council stating that “we got more in arbitration than we asked for. What are we supposed to do ... give it back?” That was truly unbelievable to hear. Taxpayers only wish we had that problem.

Residents have been fighting past and current mayors and council about spending, tax abatements, increased fees, city audits and wasteful spending. Our city wants us to support another tax?

There comes a time when taxpayers can afford only what we can afford, and not one nickel more.

We agree with Councilman Steve Price — go back to 2007 salary levels, as he suggested, and renegotiate contracts. Quit pricing yourselves out of a job. Stop being a detriment to the common good of the residents of New Albany.

When things get tough, every department should sacrifice just like the taxpayers. What happens if the economy gets worse?

What happens if the department of Local Government Finance cuts our budgets even more?

More families are losing their homes and will be moving out of our city. Where can you get new revenue? You mention about living paycheck to paycheck — imagine raising a family on $30,000 or under? If things are as tight as you say, why not sell the boat you own?

Taxpayers have to sacrifice to keep our homes, feed our kids, buy groceries, pay utilities and keep our cars running, so we can keep our jobs.

This is our solution for city government:
• New Albany police officers should do exactly what Louisville and Jeffersonville are doing — they pay, every two weeks, for taking home police cars or park these taxpayer-owned cars. Jeffersonville made a good decision and ruled police cars should not leave the city limits. New Albany should follow the same plan.
• Elected and appointed officials are driving around in taxpayers’ vehicles; they should pay every two weeks or park their vehicles at City Hall.
• We suggest that city employees give up three paid holidays a year or face layoffs.
• We suggest the mayor give up 17 percent of his salary and eliminate deputy mayor and city operation manager. Mayor England should lead by example instead of threatening to cut services or raise other fees.

Residents need police, fire and basic services; we don’t need politicians with personal agendas. It’s called accountability to taxpayers.

I would like to close this letter on a personal note. I have two retired brother-in-laws, who retired from NAFD, and a sister who retired from the NAPD. I know what they sacrificed for this city, and I know the politics that is being played here. Fear tactics don’t work with taxpayers. It’s common sense of needs versus wants. City police officers took the oath to protect residents. Elected officials also took an oath to do what is best for all residents.

We encourage Floyd County residents to contact County Council members and ask them to vote “No” on the LOIT tax on Tuesday.

Vicki Denhart is the president for Citizens for Accountability in Local Government in New Albany.

Blunt Proof of the Feasibility to Permanently Abolish Property Tax

Media Contacts:
Melyssa Donaghy 317-938-8913
Max Katz 765-409-6669

Hoosiers For Fair Taxation, Senator Delph, Representative Noe, Representative Elrod and many other legislators along with Stop Indiana, attorney John Price, Eric Miller's Advance America, and the Statewide Taxpayer Alliance know that property tax abolishment, without substantial increases in sales tax and income tax, is realistic and possible. The economist Dr. Bill Styring's 2/2/2 Plan demonstrates that the state of Indiana can completely replace property tax without changing the state's current spending habits.

Dr. Styring's plan does not account for positive changes in Indiana's economy that will undoubtedly follow the elimination of property tax such as heavy real estate investment and increased consumer spending due to increased statewide disposable income. The real estate investment in Indiana alone would cause such an economic boom that it could likely end our abandoned property and foreclosure crisis. Property tax elimination would also likely cause a surge in Indiana's population as more people locate to Indiana to take advantage of real estate purchase opportunities without the burden of property tax. With the population surge would come more sales and income taxes.

The General Assembly does not have to adopt a specific plan until the year 2011. In the meantime, we recommend that the General Assembly approves the 27steps outlined in the report prepared by the Sheperd Kernan commission. While the Governor's commission cannot forecast the savings to the state once the plan is implemented, there is no doubt that the savings would be substantial--perhaps equivalent to the the entire property tax burden currently placed on Indiana's homeowners because our legislators have not had the political will to liberate Indiana's governing structure and her taxpayers from the 19th century.

Our citizen networks will work to replace all legislators who do not support property tax repeal in the November 2008 election.

The 2/2/2 Plan, to replace property taxes in Indiana based upon the latest revenue forecast (07/08 fiscal, estimate):

1) Current IN sales tax (state level rate of 6%): $5.601 billion2% increase would yield an additional $1.867 billion

2) Current corporate profits tax: ~$2 billion

2% increase would yield an additional $.286 billion ($286M)

3) A 2% statewide average of the COIT would yield $2.705 billion to cover local civil units of gov.

By adding these three together ($1.867 billion + $.286 billion + $2.705 billion), a total of $4.858 billion is realized; enough revenue to replace property taxes.

Indiana has a 70-plus year history of attempts to lower property taxes by raising other, non-property taxes. In every case these have failed miserably. The new taxes, or higher rates on old taxes, remain in place. And, in short order, property taxes rise back to their old levels, poised to roar even higher.

--1933. General Assembly imposes two new taxes: an individual gross income tax and a corporate gross income tax. The morgue of the Indianapolis Star indicates that the political leadership at the time said this was for property tax relief (1933 was the pits of the Great Depression, and people were losing their homes. Home prices declined by over 40% in the 1929-1933 period). Property tax relief was nonexistent. The state used the money to bail out the state's own finances.

--1963. General Assembly imposes a new sales tax at a rate of 2% and changes the 1933 individual gross income tax (from 1933) to an adjusted gross income tax (the one we have now) at a rate of 2%. Again, the ostensible reason was for property tax relief and again little PTR was forthcoming.

--1967. Those 1963 tax changes were raising more money than projected. The GA decides to give back 8% of sales and income tax revenue to local government for property tax relief. Local units spent the money. No PTR.

--1973. Gov. Otis Bowen launches the most determined PTR offensive yet. The sales tax goes to 4% and a new corporate supplemental net income (profits) tax is imposed. Strict property tax levy controls are imposed. It works... for a time. By 1980, property taxes adjusted for inflation are some 30% lower than in 1973. When Bowen leaves office the levy controls are relaxed. By the end of the decade, property taxes (adjusted for inflation) are back to 1973 levels. The doubling of the sales tax rate from 2% to 4% remains in place, along with the new corporate SNIT.

--2002. More fiddling with the sales tax in the hope of property tax relief. The results of this are obvious, or we wouldn't be debating the current property tax mess. All of this suggests that unless the property tax is totally ripped up by constitutional amendment, the assessment and collection mechanism dismantled, it will grow back. The PTR-inspired hikes in other taxes remain. That is our history. It is a terrible deal for taxpayers.

2. A vote in the 2008 legislative session for a constitutional amendment to repeal property taxes does not amend the constitution. It merely starts the amendment process. Amendments must be passed by two consecutively elected General Assemblies, then submitted to a referendum. Thus any amendment passed by the '08 Assembly must be passed by either the 2009 or 2010 legislatures, then submitted to the voters at the 2010 general election. The General Assembly does not need to decide on a "replacement revenue" package until the 2011 session.

3. What might such a "replacement revenue" package look like? The particular answer will come from the 2011 General Assembly and cannot be determined now (if for no other reason than forecasting state level taxes and property taxes out that far would be a most unreliable exercise. No one need be locked into any particular plan just yet. However, as an illustration that a replacement plan is feasible and less scary than many fear (we don't need to be talking about a 12% or 13% sales tax ... in fact, we should not be), consider just this one possibility.

Local sales taxes are generally very bad policy, for a whole host of reasons too numerous to mention in this short sketch. Sales and corporate taxes are best levied at the state level. It happens that roughly a 2% increase in the sales tax and a 2% increase in the corporate profits tax roughly take care of school propertytaxes. The loss of local control by the state assuming school property taxes is minimal. About the onlylocal control left is on building projects.

For local civil units, a statewide average increase in the individual adjusted gross income tax of about 2% suffices to replace local civil government property taxes, higher than 2% in some units, less than 2% in others.

Thus, a "2-2-2" plan~2% sales and 2% corporate profits at the state level for schools and a 2% average on personal income taxes for civil units—is about what would be needed. This is merely a ballpark projection to 2011.

There may be better plans, it's really a policy question for the General Assembly: do you want to make the trade of something like this in exchange for no-property-taxes-forever-on-anything? Everyone understands "zero."

4. Are there "practical problems? Of course. The two identified are how to make the civil government transition from a property tax base to an income tax base, and how to handle debt backed by property taxes. Without elaborating, the former can be handled using locator software (Map quest-type programs). The debt problem might be handled by treating the current state paid PTRC's as in lieu of property taxes (which they are) and paying PT-backed debt service from each unit's own PTRC.

Conclusion: Total elimination of the property tax via constitutional amendment is the only way to give property tax relief that will stick. The other tax action necessary to achieve this goal—in 2011-are large but not so scary as "a 13% sales tax." They are feasible. The question is for the General Assembly. Are we going to once again go down that 70-odd year path of failed PTR policies or are we going to rip the property tax up by the roots?

Posted by Hoosiers For Fair Taxation on Friday, January 4, 2008.