Thursday, December 4, 2008


If a person claiming to be a city or utility worker comes to your door, DO NOT LET THEM IN!

They will claim to be performing repairs in your alley and need to come inside to talk to you. IT IS A HOAX! They are actually casing your home to see what they could steal (your valuables and your money).

If they are a legitimate city or utility worker,

1) they will be in uniform with the city's or company's logo on it
2) they will have a city or company identification badge with their picture on it
3) they will have a city or utility vehicle with a logo on it parked outside your home or in your alley. They will never be in an unmarked vehicle.
4) if you yourself didn't specifically call for a repair, don't let anyone claiming to be a city or utility worker into your home

Three senior citizens (2 in Robertsdale and 1 in East Chicago) have had this scam pulled on them. Two were lucky; they were not hurt or robbed. The third was robbed of $500. Thankfully, she was not hurt.

If someone claiming to be a city or utility worker comes to your door and you don't recognize them, err on the side of caution and call 9-1-1. Do not under any circumstances let them in. The police would much rather have a false alarm than deal with an assault and robbery.

And most important, keep your doors locked at all times!

It is much better to be safe than sorry!


Beginning January1, 2009, the Lake County Assessor's office will assume the duties of setting values for properties in North Township. Voters in Munster, Hammond, East Chicago, Highland, and Whiting chose to abolish the North Township Assessor's office in a November 4 referendum.

The Cedar Creek, Eagle Creek, Hanover, West Creek and Winfield township assessors have already been consolidated into the county assessor's office as mandated by the state legislature.

From this consolidation and downsizing of six township assessor offices, Lake County taxpayers will see a savings of more than $683,000.

North Township Assessor John Matonovich will retain his title of assessor until 2010 but will have his salary reduced from its current level of $52,290. He can apply for a job in the county assessor's office but will only receive a salary of $25,000. Matonovich has already indicated he will take a position.

The remaining 18 staff members from Matonovich's office will have to compete for the 8 to 10 positions that are available in the county assessor's office.

"We will try to take them for experience, qualification and no political BS," Lake County Assessor Paul Karras said. "I have to have qualified people. Those who we feel don't measure up to the task, they're gone."

Nine of 10 full-time staff members from the five smaller township assessors offices were absorbed into the county assessor's office. The five assessors are currently working at half-pay, and it is not sure whether they will remain on Karras's staff in 2009.


In a historic move, the Lake County Council unanimously adopted a 2009 budget that was $15 million slimmer than the previous year's budget.

"This will be the first year I can recall we actually worked below the previous year's job (budget)," said Councilman Larry Blanchard who has served on the county council since 1994.
Councilman Blanchard said the county not only has a balanced budget but also a cushion which will eliminate the need for a county option income tax.

Since the early 1970's, county government spending increased every year; sometimes by as much as 5%. Not so, this year because the county's property tax collections were frozen by the state for failing to pass a county income tax. Lake County is now the only county in the state of Indiana without a county income tax.

Property owners will pay roughly 56 cents for every $100 of assessed value on their homes, farms, small businesses or industry. The county will take in a total of $125.8 million, which will be $6.1 million less than last year's tax draw.

The $15 million in budget cuts were achieved as follows:

1) Elimination of 112 county jobs
2) Hiring freeze
3) Incentives for early retirement
4) Consolidation of document printing & business machine purchases
5) Elimination of contributions to employees' individual retirement accounts
6) Assuming government user fees for electronic court paper filings & sheriff services

The 2009 budget will include 3% pay increases for 170 county police officers. Also, $1.5 million will be divided up among the county's 2,000 employees as one-time bonuses. The council members say these bonuses are justified because county employees have had their salaries frozen for the past two years. Also, with the 112 job eliminations, remaining employees will have to assume more work.

This budget is a win-win for the weary taxpayers of Lake County and is finally, a step in the right direction.

However, we are sure there is much more that could be done to reduce the waste in county government spending.

Monday, December 1, 2008


George Janiec led off the November Team Hammond Taxpayers' meeting. He talked about the 2009 Hammond city budget and the efforts of the mayor to get substantial raises for the Fire Chief and Information Technology employee.

The budget was approved by the council, but the raises for both employees were not included. Council members felt it would be unfair because other city employees were only receiving 3% raises. The mayor threatened to veto the budget and would put the budget in peril of not meeting the December 1st deadline required by the DLGF.

George also covered claims submitted to the city council for payment. A claim for $939.75 from Pet Playground was submitted in October for aquarium maintenance, fish and other supplies for the mayor's salt-water aquarium. This money was to be paid from the mayor's gaming fund. Even though it is casino money, George stated this money belongs to the taxpayers and not just the mayor.

The other claim mentioned was submitted by Bose Public Affairs Group, an Indianapolis based lobbying group for $25,356.75. The city of Hammond pays Bose to wine and dine area legislators on matters pertaining to Hammond including taking State Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon and Dan Stevenson as well as Mayor McDermott to White Sox and Cubs games. This claim was also to be paid for out of the mayor's gaming fund.

The county budget was also covered by George. The county council still needed to eliminate 2.8 million from the budget and were optimistic they could find ways to make the needed cuts. Despite assurances from Sheriff Dominguez he would make substantial cuts to his budget, very little was pared from his budget. The county council passed his budget by a vote of 6 to 1. The county council would be looking to other departments to make the final cuts.

The NIRPC planning forum is scheduled for Saturday, December 6th at the Radisson in Merrillville. If anyone is interested in attending this forum, they can call NIRPC or go online to their website to get an application.

Jim Premeske spoke next about tax abatements and TIFs. He explained what a tax abatement is and how it is applied; what a TIF is and how it is used, and the difference between a tax abatement and a TIF. Cabela's was used as a TIF example, and Jim Sheehan gave figures on the amount of property taxes Cabela's should pay and what they actually pay.

He also gave specific examples of several university studies that show TIFs are not good for economic development; and in fact, TIFs can do more harm to a community because local businesses (who pay taxes) are forced to close. Some states are even rethinking TIFS and eliminating them for retail development.

Elizabeth Kurella talked next about the Lincoln-Lake apartments in Robertsdale. A contractor for the demolition of the buildings has been chosen, and five new single family homes are to be built where the apartments once stood. Elizabeth questioned the cost of the project. Between the purchase price of the apartments and demolition, the project will be close to one million dollars before development even takes place. Several audience members came out in support of the project believing it will cut down on crime, but other members would rather see that money used towards putting more police out on the street as a deterrent to crime.

JoAnn Palko touched on the status of the Statue of Liberty project for Wolf Lake. The results of the engineering study concluded it was not feasible for the statue to be erected on Boy Scout island. The wind and exposure to ultraviolet light were the biggest determining factors in this study. For now, the statue is being stored in a city warehouse. There are several options for the statue. The top half could be put on display in the Welcome Center at the Borman Expressway, the statue could be used in summer parades, or the statue could be sent back to the original owner and designer in Griffith.

There will be no December meeting for Team Hammond. Meetings will resume in January.

Team Hammond would like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

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.