The following opinion article appeared in the November 28th, 2007 issue of “The Corydon Democrat” in Corydon, Indiana. The opinion was written by Joseph E. Martin, the Jackson Township Trustee living in Georgetown, Indiana.
I felt that the opinion’s that he shares in this piece are informative and interesting, and would like to share them with the Switzerland County community.
Switzerland County Assessor
Indiana’s property tax fiasco has been building for a long time. As a trustee/assessor, I’ve watched it evolve from a system where you paid based on one-third of your assessed value and only the assessors understood it, to a supposedly fair system based on actual market value adjusted by trending which no one understands and everyone hates. Top it off with a governor who thinks he can solve the problem by firing everyone from the county assessor on down and replacing them with a whole new layer of inefficient bureaucracy appointed by him or maybe the county council or it really doesn’t matter because it will get the politics out of the process. Right.
I observed early on that most people really were not that upset about the property tax they were paying but some were very concerned their neighbor was not contributing their fair share. It was just this scenario which prompted the court case brought by the ICLU (Indiana Civil Liberties Union) that caused the unraveling of a very smooth operating system. I cautioned anyone who would listen that a fair market value system would result in everyone paying more, even if it was supposed to be fair, but the ICLU got their way in a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court and here we are.
When Mitch Daniels says he wants to replace the local people doing the assessing, it makes me want to throw up, not so much because I’m in fear for my job. In fact, with all the new requirements and nearly impossible-to-meet demands of the state, forced retirement doesn’t look all that bad.
The thing is, when you have a problem, you’re better off dealing with a local elected official than a voice mail in an office in Seymour or Indianapolis or, in Mitch’s fondest dreams, Spain or Australia. If you don’t like how I or someone else does something, there is a new job interview every four years. For that matter, I would much rather the bulk of the tax dollars I pay go to the county rather than the state or federal government. Most of the services which directly affect the individual – school, police, fire and EMS – are provided on the local level. If there is a problem, I or anyone else can call my county commissioner or council member or school board member. I don’t think Mitch or George Bush will take my call.
I don’t claim to have an answer for this mess. I do know that every solution I’ve heard put forth so far, like this ridiculous rebate we’ve been promised, is a smoke-and-mirrors gimmick designed to please the latest and loudest protesters. They did away with the inventory tax, which shifted more burden to homeowners so they got increased homestead credits, which made owners of rental property feel abused, and on and on.
Now Mitch has a scheme to cap property tax at 1, 2 or 3 percent of your assessment and raise everyone’s sales and income tax. A state representative has a plan to adjust the caps according to some murky formula based on estimates by the legislative services agency. You are beginning to get the idea.
One answer would be to scrap property tax altogether. This would be great except the sales tax would have to be so high all the businesses in border counties would probably go broke and Indiana’s bond rating would be a little better than Enron and a little worse than New Orleans. So much for Mitch’s plan to tamp down local spending when new schools are financed at 8 percent instead of 4 percent.
Absolutely nothing the state has done has made it any easier for local officials to do their job. Endless demands for information which had no relevance to the matter at hand made it impossible to get tax bills out in a timely manner. This caused hardship and added expense for schools and local governments, not to mention the strain on the taxpayer.
For the state to say they are going to fix everything by building new from the ground up after the mess they’ve made all by themselves is like the president discharging all the soldiers after the generals and congress messed up the war.
The bottom line is things cost money. Teachers need to be paid, buildings repaired and replaced, and school buses purchased and maintained. When you call 911, it’s nice when the fire department, police or ambulance shows up and gets the job done. Someone has to pay for this and everything else, and the question is how you divide up the bill. I don’t know an answer to this that will satisfy everyone or anyone, but I do know one thing, be very careful what you ask for because you may get it.
Joseph E. Martin of Georgetown has served as the Jackson Township Trustee-Assessor since 1982.
Flying our flag
To the Editor:
We lower our Nation’s Banner to salute the individual who gave the greatest gift, his life, for our freedom. In doing this, we must remember that our Nation’s Banner is “never” lower than other banners it is flown with.
Remember, if more than one banner is flown, all other banners must be lowered to half-staff prior to lowering the Nation’s Banner to half-staff.
Our Soldier gave his life defending our Nation, our country and our flag. May they all continue to flourish.
Veterans Service Officer
Thanks to all
To the Editor:
Busy times at the Switzerland County Historical Society! So many people have given freely of their time and efforts to accomplish so much.
Imagine having a yard the size of the museum grounds with all those beautiful trees and all those leaves to rake. Then picture a group of teenagers (who looked like they were having fun) coming to the rescue. The Junior Historical Society from Switzerland County High School, along with their advisor Janet Hendricks and volunteer Barry Brown, worked wonders as they performed the seasonal ritual of fall raking. Thank you!
Just a few weeks prior the Junior Historical Society engaged in an archeological dig at the Thiebaud farmstead (the Bear Farm) where the historical society is developing an Agriculture Museum Center. Their work revealed stone cellar steps that had been filled in with dirt. They also helped with general clean-up both inside and out. A tremendous amount of work has also been accomplished at the farmstead by historical society member Al Brockman. Thank you!
The facade of the Thiebaud house has undergone a major transformation, made possible by a grant from the Vevay/Switzerland County Foundation. Thank you!
A new standing seam roof was put on the Thiebaud house last year, but gutters had to wait. New half-round galvanized metal gutters now divert rain away from the house, made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of Switzerland County. Thank you!
The historical society sponsored the “Spirit of Christmas” Tour this past Saturday. Visitors were treated to an exceptional tour due to the following gracious homeowners: Maxine and Chester Meisberger, Bev and Roger Parrott, Shawnna and Micah Ramsey, Pam and Rick Haines, and Julie and Mark Perkins. The Methodist Church also participated. Thank you!
Assisting the homeowners were over 30 historical society and Junior Historical Society volunteers. Thank you!
Special exhibits are currently on display at the Switzerland County Historical Museum due to the trust of the following who loaned items: Kenny and Regina Turner, Bill Wiseman, Ida Catanzaro, Clarence Wentworth, and Phyllis Bush. Thank you!
The historical society elected new officers and directors at their November meeting. President Janet Hendricks, vice president Helen Parks, secretary Barry Brown, treasurer Ruth Osborn, corresponding secretary Phyllis Bush, and directors Sherry Scott, Wanda Benzing, and Al Stevens will be participating in a board development and strategic planning workshop this Saturday, due a grant from the Community Foundation of Switzerland County. Thank you!
All of the above are just a recent part of the ongoing work of the Switzerland County Historical Society. True to the Shaker saying, “Many hands make light work.”
Interim Executive Director
Switzerland County Historical Society