Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Property tax rates revised in the wake of assessed valuation error

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County taxpayers who calculated their 2010 property tax bills before last week may find their actual tax bill slightly higher than what they expected, under a revised budget order issued last week by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

The DLGF reissued the 2010 Porter County Budget after Porter County Auditor Jim Kopp notified the state that the auditor’s office discovered the net assessed values for Burns Harbor should have been $511 million, not $637 million as originally certified. The difference in figures was due to property abatements for Mittal Steel that had not been deducted from the total.

The new tax rates for Porter County’s 29 taxing districts all swelled slightly with the revised county assessed value. Burns Harbor, as expected, saw the biggest leap in its tax rate which grew .1319 of a percent compared to the original budget order. Portage City-Westchester Township, which also includes personal property from Mittal Steel, saw the second highest growth with .0935 of a percent. The rates are determined by the taxing district’s levy divided by the assessed value.

Kopp reported the error after Burns Harbor Treasurer-Clerk Jane Jordan at the DLGF 1782 public hearing on Feb. 5 asked why the net assessed value for her taxing district was 20 percent higher than last year.

Jordan said if the tax bills were issued incorrectly, Burns Harbor would have seen shortfalls near $600,000 for the district.

Kopp said the error came from the Low and Associates Software System used by both the assessor’s and the auditor’s office. He said the system used by the assessor’s office was not compatible with the taxing portion of the system used by the auditor. Kopp said he asked the county commissioners and county council to purchase an integrated system, but the county instead purchased the non-integrated Low system recommended by Porter County Assessor John Scott.

Scott, who admitted there were major problems with tax data before Kopp took office in 2007, said the Low system and XSoft purchased by the county in 2009 were up and running in his office within four weeks compared to the Hamer system endorsed by Kopp which took 22 months.

“I knew it was a defunct company when they tried to put it in my office, I knew it was a defunct office when they tried to put it in Jim’s,” said Scott. “When it is ready to work in my office, I’ll accept it.”

Scott said the consultants hired by the county to fix the problems with the Hamer told Kopp the only way taxing will get done is if the assessors have a computer system that works. Scott said his office had spent nearly an additional 2,000 hours without overtime figuring splits and transfers that should have been done by the auditor’s office.

This is the first year the Low computer system has been used by the county offices. Kopp said the computer system will be automated for next year’s taxing process, eliminating many of the problems the auditor’s office had to fix manually.

With the DLGF’s certification of the 2010 budget order, the remaining work will be handled at the county level. Kopp said he will submit a tax abstract to the state this week if his office does not discover other errors. Once the state approves the abstract, the auditor’s office will begin calculating the property tax bills.

The auditor will pass the bills along to Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko, who is to mail the bills by April 23 according to state law. The first installment of the 2010 tax bills is due to the state by May 10 with a second installment due in November.

Kopp said his office may have the tax bills ready by the first week of April. The last time property tax bills were issued on time in Porter County was in 2002.

The DLGF also reported that Porter County is the 62nd of the Indiana’s 92 counties to have the budget certified. As of today, 71 counties have been issued their final budget orders.

Taxpayers can estimate their 2010 property tax bill at the DLGF’s Web site, www.in.gov/dlgf, by using the online property tax calculator. Taxpayers should also be advised that their true tax bill amount is to be determined by the county.

Following below is a listing of the corrected 2010 District Taxing Rates according to the Budget Order approved by the DLGF on Thursday. The tax rate (the certified levy divided by assessed value) is expressed in terms of “dollars per $100 of assessed value.”

District Taxing Rates

Boone Township- 2.2969

Hebron (Boone)- 2.8559

Center Township- 1.3672

Valparaiso (Center)- 2.2199

Jackson Township- 1.3789

Liberty Township- 1.4299

Chesterton-Liberty TWP- 2.1996

Morgan Township- 1.5730

Pine Township-Michigan City School District- 1.6267

Pine Township-Duneland School District- 1.4267

Beverly Shores (Pines)- 1.8900

Pines Town (Pines Twp.)- 1.9964

Pleasant Township- 1.6432

Kouts (Pleasant)- 2.0083

Portage Township- 1.8255

Portage City-Portage TWP- 2.4792

Ogden Dunes (Portage)- 1.8913

Porter Township- 1.5175

Union Township- 1.5020

Washington Township- 1.6082

Westchester Township- 1.4703

Portage City- Westchester Township- 2.4097

Chesterton- Westchester Township- 2.2586

Burns Harbor (Westchester)- 1.7884

Dune Acres (Westchester)- 1.7433

Porter Town (Westchester)- 2.3534

Chesterton-Jackson Twp.- 2.1833

Porter Twp.-W Porter Fire- 1.4939

Valparaiso-Washington Twp.- 2.5325

 

Posted 2/22/2010

 

 

 

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