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
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
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