Tax story doesn’t give complete picture
by Shelia Thompson
Guest Columnist (Logansport paper)
Concerning your article about property tax payments, the information is factual but not complete.
The qualifications for the payment plan are as follows: No current delinquent charges, no escrow account in place and the individual must have a filed, and in use, homestead exemption.
To explain that further, no one with any delinquencies will qualify. No one who has a mortgage or arrangement with a mortgage company or fiduciary to make their payments will qualify. And the owner of the property must be a resident living in that home with a homestead exemption in place.
What your article did not relay is that the council members will act on this ordinance Sept. 3, but as the Cass County treasurer, I have to submit that ordinance/resolution to the Department of Local Government Finance, and wait for their approval. There is always the possibility that the DLGF will not approve that ordinance/resolution. And that could be a very real possibility. Then we are back to square one and have to start again.
Right now the treasurers association is battling with the DLGF. The mandate from the DLGF is being questioned. The law does not state that any of the 92 counties in Indiana are mandated to provide tax payment plans. The intention of the law is that the local government officials should be the deciding factor for their services. Right now the Association of Indiana Counties, the treasurers association and attorneys for the association and individual counties are looking into this mandate and the consequences it causes and the actions needed to be taken to challenge this mandate.
These tax payment arrangements will only apply to a very few people.
Let me explain. Most taxpayers that are interested in a payment plan are those that are delinquent and in danger of the tax sale. They automatically do not qualify. Taxpayers that have recently moved into a newly built home or a newly purchased home may not have homestead exemptions in place. They automatically do not qualify. And lastly, the taxes on a property with a homestead exemption have been so drastically reduced that the taxpayers will be amazed. As one taxpayer who has called as a result of the newspaper article found out, her taxes were reduced from $630 to $282, and she had already made an advance payment of $200 leaving a total of $82 that could qualify for a tax payment plan. This person was clearly not interested in stretching out $82 in three installments.
Each scenario will differ with the information of the individual. As you can probably guess, I am not in favor of the payment plan. If the payment plan is introduced and if there are a substantial number of taxpayers that qualify and file for the plan, then the county will be faced with an enormous bill for programming the current software to clerically control and oversee these payment plans, or there will be more staff needed to oversee these plans. All in all, counties should be able to decide if their budgets can accommodate the changes that will be needed for this type of service. With reductions in county budgets and the reduction in the number of county employees, services will continue to be eliminated.
As a side note, just since I have started this e-mail we have had 12 telephone calls, three walk-ins and inquiries from some county workers within the building with questions regarding this article. There have been no statements printed during this time.
Shelia Thompson is the Cass County treasurer.