Tuesday, February 05, 2008

City Council Votes to Increase Property Taxes

(I will get video up tomorrow but for some reason ch 58 was completely scrambled for me tonight - coincidence? heh...)

The main focus of tonight's meeting was to deal with the administration's request to retroactively change the budget passed by the previous council. There was much legal wrangling between council attorney Joe Bonahoom, councilman Tim Pape and city attorney Carol Taylor. The gist of the debate revolved around two issues.

The first issue was whether or not a public hearing would be required to pass the administration's ordinance requesting a tax increase. Unbelievably the administration argued that a public hearing would not be required because they already had one. Now I want to explain this in detail because their argument was nuanced but quite ridiculous as well.

The city was required to have a public hearing for the original budget meeting. This process gives citizens an opportunity to speak for or against the proposed budget, but there's one other part of the process that is very important. Citizens have 10 days after the budget is passed to file their objections and those objections become part of the public record that is sent to the Department of Local Government Finance as the DLGF is ultimately the body responsible for approving the budget passed by council.

So here is the administration's argument in a nutshell. The original public hearing notice had the maximum levy increase included and nobody objected so there's no requirement to hold another public hearing. Now what is absolutely ridiculous about this argument is that they fail to mention that the levy was cut by 4% and that is why nobody objected. Had the council not cut taxes there very well might have been some objections from citizens. It is completely disingenuous for the administration to argue that since citizens didn't object to the 4% levy cut they also wouldn't object to a 4% levy increase - completely illogical. To her credit councilwoman Liz Brown caught the city's bamboozle and called them out on this.

The second issue was whether or not it was legal for the council to pass an ordinance that would retroactively raise taxes. Despite the administration's legal arguments Bonahoom insisted that it would not be legal to do so and went as far to say that he would not sign off on a such an ordinance. Bonahoom suggested the council amend the current ordinance to have the administration request that the Department of Local Government Finance change the levy and he cited specific state statute that gave the city the authority to request this change. Ultimately, with a few minor changes from councilman Pape, the council agreed that this would be the preferred method to take although to the citizenry it doesn't really matter as the net result would be a tax increase no matter how the council approached it.

In the end the council approved the ordinance 7-2 with councilmen Mitch Harper and Tom Smith being the votes against the ordinance. They did all of this without a public hearing or any formal process to get input or objections from the citizens of this city. I believe the DLGF will be required to hold a public hearing so all you have to do is drive down to Indianapolis to be heard...

1 comment:

John B. Kalb said...

And some of us have made that trip - and will make it again!!!
Four more years of this "We are going to do it our way and we say you can't do a thing about it". Please let our legislators meeting in Indianapolis know what is being done to HB 1001, over-turning their actions. And, I can take up to three others with me to a public hearing - just let me know you want to go along. John B. Kalb