Chesterton Tribune

Falling real estate prices push property tax assessments lower

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The slump in the housing and real estate market values may have an adverse effect on county government in the coming years say officials in the county assessor and auditor offices.

Both offices are in the process of finalizing the 2012 assessed and net certified values which will show up on property taxpayers’ 2013 bills released next spring, but the early figures from County Assessor Jon Snyder estimate the county’s total assessed value will be about $13.1 billion compared to $13.4 billion in 2011, a drop of $360 million or 2.7 percent.

Lower AVs mean that county government will see less revenue come into its General Fund which is generated primarily by property taxes and some tax rates are likely to increase as a result, according to Snyder.

“Nobody wins,” he said. “Assessments are based on market value and when they are tied together with this kind of market, this is what you see.”

But Snyder warns that these are only early, uncertified figures and that the official figures may tell a more positive tale once the auditor certifies the net assessed values.

Snyder said his office submitted real property assessed figures to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance on July 2 and personal property figures on July 10, one of the first five counties in the state to do so and is ahead of the curve with on-time billing ahead of last year.

County Auditor Bob Wichlinski said he expects to have the net assessed values figured by next week’s Aug. 1 deadline, which will then be sent to the state for further evaluation. He said it is too early to say what the official figures will be since the state has the power to set the final 2013 budgets and the tax rates, which are not due until February.

The largest AV dips occurred in the county’s two biggest municipalities. Portage City’s AV dropped nearly $120 million according to unofficial figures, going from $2,299,319,564 in 2011 to $2,179,439,915 in 2012. Valparaiso saw a similar decline, going from $2,516,432,730 in 2011 to $2,404,617,110 in 2012, a difference of about $112 million, the unofficial figures suggest.

But not all of the county’s 29 taxing units are projected to see their AVs decline. Thirteen could see increases.

The taxing unit with the largest AV growth according to early figures was in Duneland. Thanks to the new $210 million hospital on the corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6, Liberty Twp. saw the biggest jump in AV of about $39 million. Behind it coming in with the second and third largest AV increases were two more Duneland units, Beverly Shores with an increase of $14.9 million and the Town of Porter with a rise of $13.6 million.

From Duneland’s 12 taxing units, only four showed decreased AV results in the assessor’s unofficial figures. Those were Chesterton-Westchester (-$47.8 million, a 5.4 percent drop) Jackson Township (-$18.4 million, a 3.3 percent drop), Westchester Township (-$17.7 million, a 10.7 percent drop) and Chesterton-Jackson (-$4 million, a 10.6 percent drop).

The other Duneland units showing increased AV values were Burns Harbor (+$6.9 million), Pine-Duneland School District (+$3.4 million), Chesterton-Liberty (+$2.4 million), the Town of Pines (+$1.5 million) and Dune Acres (+$832,800).

The three Chesterton taxing units combined showed a negative difference of $49.4 million in unofficial figures.

Other notable decreases throughout the county include a $49.2 million drop in Center Township’s unofficial 2012 AV, a $38 million drop in Ogden Dunes, and a $37.5 million drop in Porter Township.

AV increases were seen in the taxing units of Valparaiso-Washington Twp. (+$10.9 million), Pine- Michigan City School District (+$10.6 million) and Hebron (+$8 million).

The new figures come from the most recent countywide reassessment which was completed by Snyder’s office this year in accordance with the state’s March 1 deadline.

The last reassessment was in 2007 as the state mandates counties perform reassessments every five years, Snyder said. He further stated this year’s reassessment figures are “a little more stable” than the last go-around as his office has taken additional measures to make more accurate assessments.

Snyder said his office expects to mail out the final assessment figures to taxpayers in early October, about the same time as last year. Taxpayers who wish to appeal their values then have 45 days to do so, he said.

Lower assessed valuation generally drives tax rates higher, while higher AV totals tend to drive tax rates lower.

Even in taxing units which saw increased AVs, residents may still have to pay higher taxes depending on their individual assessments and other factors.

Each taxpayer’s bill will be different, Wichlinski said.

Higher tax rates will cause more properties to hit the state tax cap circuit breakers: One percent cap for owner-occupied residential properties, two percent for multi-family dwellings and agricultural land, and three percent for commercial property or other real property.

Wichlinski said whether a property is located within a tax increment finance (TIF) district or a conservancy district is another reason a tax bill may go up or down.

Property owners in the Duneland School Corporation can expect to see an additional item on their 2013 bill with the passing of the corporation’s referendum to increase the property tax by 22 cents per $100 of assessed value, Wichlinski said.


Posted 7/26/2012