Chesterton Tribune



Assessor cracks down on exemptions in wake of victory over union and chamber

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Along with hearing taxpayer appeals of assessments, the County’s Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) will devote time this year to checking the status of a number of properties’ tax exemptions

County Assessor Jon Snyder on Thursday said that in wake of the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s decision to uphold the PTABOA’s decision to revoke United Steelworkers Local 6787 Hall tax exempt status, as well as its denial of the Portage Chamber of Commerce’s exemption application, he requested that PTABOA inspect other exemption cases to check if they are in compliance with the statutory code.

The aim, Snyder said, is fairness for all property owners. The decisions relating to the Steelworkers Hall and the Portage Chamber “have caused some potential inequity amongst exempt classes in this county,” Snyder said.

“Make no mistake it has always been the intention of this Assessor to be sure that all taxpayers are treated equitably by following the standard of law,” he told the board in a prepared statement.

The Assessor’s office made an “audit” of several of the 7,000 or so property exemptions in Porter County and Snyder presented a list of 22 parcels that he would like the PTABOA to hold hearings on.

From the list, five of those parcels are from Duneland: The Art Barn School of Art, in Jackson Twp.; The Association of Artists and Craftsmen, in Chesterton; the United Steelworkers Local 12775 Building Corporation, in Porter; United Steelworkers Local 12775 (personal property), in Porter; and the North Porter County Conservation Club, in Liberty Twp.

Snyder told the Chesterton Tribune these are not properties that he suspects are in violation of the law, necessarily. They are listed because the Assessor’s office just doesn’t have any documentation that supports the exemption status, he said, and he would like to give each property the chance to show their merits to the PTABOA.

Snyder’s list includes numerous union halls and conservation clubs, Pines Village Retirement Community in Valparaiso and the Northwest Indiana Forum Inc.’s personal property in Portage. Other properties may be recommended for the board’s evaluation in the future.

“This list is not an absolute. It will continue to be a moving target,” Snyder said.

PTABOA attorney Christopher Buckley said the Indiana General Assembly has passed legislation that requires County Assessors to weigh certain classes of property by the same standards.

The state allows tax exemptions on properties that are for a municipal, educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes, Buckley said.

It is the burden of the taxpayer to demonstrate that the property is being used for one of those purposes at least 50 percent of the time in order to retain an exemption according to the statute, he added.

PTABOA President Nicholas Sommer and members Candy Crone and Scott Williams voted 3-0 in favor of scheduling hearings for the 22 parcels.

“We need to hear from these folks,” Williams agreed.

Snyder said that the work will be long and difficult but he hopes that each case will be heard before the end of this year.


Posted 1/30/2015




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