Chesterton Tribune

Porter County auditor warns of future revenue losses

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The effort to end homestead exemption fraud is expected to return over $1 million to the county’s coffers, but this falls far short of making up for all other predicted tax revenue losses.

County Auditor, Bob Wichlinski and Treasurer Mike Bucko, gave the good and not so good news at this week’s Porter County Commission-er meeting.

In an ongoing effort to put a stop to property owners falsely claiming ineligible homestead exemptions, the county has been going after those who profited unfairly from false filings.

Homestead exemption fraud occurs when property owners wrongfully claim an exemption on property that is not their primary residence or on other ineligible properties they own.

According to Bucko, to date over $560,000 has been repaid to the county by those found to be in violation.

This type of fraud has become a statewide problem; in Porter County it has cost taxpayers $1.2 million in lost tax revenue. Aiming to curb this abuse, last year Indiana enacted a bill that requires all counties to include an exemption verification form with tax bills.

However, these losses pale in comparison to the $2 million the county has to pay back to property owners who have won their tax appeals.

Adding to future lost revenue is the impact the “tax cap” constitutional amendment is having on property tax revenue.

In 2010 Indiana voters approved adding a constitutional amendment that places a cap on property tax increases. In the case of residential property this cap is one percent.

Wichlinski also warned the current economic downturn will cause further declines in the county treasury. He said the decline in household incomes will reduce the county’s income tax revenue.

He estimates over the next three years this will account for $3 million in lost revenue

Wichlinski told the commissioners he is planning to conduct informational sessions for taxing units most affected by the reductions.

No More Pre-Meeting Agendas

In other business, President John Evans announced that no longer will the board email agendas out before the day of the meeting.

He said that early agendas oftentimes are not complete.

He said before coming to this decision, he reviewed requirements spelled out in the Indiana Open Meetings Act and emailings are not required.

He said that posting an agenda the day of the meeting is all that needs to be done.




Posted 5/4/2011