Our dear flag flown upside down signifies our utter distressIf this is the "Best" they can do, it's time to get rid of the system. It is our position that our property tax collection and assessing system is broken down, cumbersome, utterly confusing, unfair, illegal, immoral, and unfixable. None of this mess is the fault of the assessors either. As far as we are concerned, the assessors are off the hook for the blame.
State tells assessors: We need data now
County officials bridle at threats, say they're doing their best under difficult circumstances
By Mary Beth Schneider
The state sent a tough message to county assessors Tuesday: Turn in your property tax data by Dec. 10 or else.
The "or else" ranges from revoking an assessor's certification for up to a year to denying property tax replacement funds from the state.
The state Department of Local Government Finance said Tuesday that 23 counties, including Boone, Hendricks and Johnson, have missed deadlines for submitting property tax data to the state.
The information is needed as the first step toward getting property tax bills completed on time in 2008. The data originally were due Oct. 1, but department Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave extended the deadline to Nov. 15.
"Delinquent data is an indication that 2008 tax bills may not go out on time, and counties may have to borrow in 2008 to fund services to taxpayers," Musgrave said in a statement.
The ramifications of the threat to revoke an assessor's certification are minimal. An assessor can continue to work and be paid. A new state law bars assessors or candidates for assessor for running for election in 2010 if they are not certified as having the necessary skills. But this revocation could last only a year, ending before the next election.
Agency spokeswoman Mary Jane Michalak said the state understands that assessors are working hard, but the intent is "to send a message" to counties that they have to fulfill their statutory obligations.
She said additional counties are delinquent but have contacted the state to explain their circumstances.
"We have not received answers from these counties," she said of the 23 on the list.
Assessors, though, disagreed.
"That's not true," said Johnson County Assessor Marla Hash, who said she had told the state that her office was still collecting data on new construction.
"We're working as hard as we can," she said.
Nancy Marsh, the Hendricks County auditor who becomes county treasurer in January, also was puzzled by the threat, saying the state agency had singled out Hendricks County as one of three counties doing a good job on reassessment.
"We just had meetings a couple months ago (with Musgrave) when she expressed a spirit of cooperation. She said she would no longer use the threat of withholding (property tax replacement) funds. But now we have it again," Marsh said.
"We're getting mixed messages. It makes us all look bad, and that's so frustrating," she said. "It looks like (state officials) want to make it all look like someone else's fault, but there is plenty of blame to go around."
Marsh said the state's threats are unfair. Hendricks and other counties have had an unprecedented number of appeals from the last reassessment at the same time the legislature has required counties to calculate and mail tens of thousands of partial refund checks, all with the same staff.
Call Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider at (317) 444-2772.