From the Terre Haute Tribune Star:
Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann met Tuesday with elected officials in Terre Haute City Hall as part of a continuing “Listen and Learn Tour.”
Ellspermann sought feedback on strengths, weaknesses and issues of the city and county, as well as issues officials can’t control, such as federal mandates. Officials pointed to issues such as a continued drug problem from methamphetamine, state property tax caps and even a concern of work attitudes and the inability of township officials to request drug tests and addiction programs.
Mayor Duke Bennett said property tax caps have reduced the city’s income by $35 million since they were instituted in 2010. That’s about 25 percent of the city’s previous income, the mayor said.
“The concept of the caps was fine, I supported that. But what has happened, it has really put a strangle hold on communities,” Bennett said. “Some communities are doing OK because they have growth. In our case, our assessed value dropped 7.5 percent last year.”
The mayor said he does not think the city’s assessed value dropped that much.
“We don’t have the ability to change that,” he said. “It has put us in a position that we will have to find a way to fund in order to make us economically feasible for people to come here,”
The city has to maintain public safety as well as streets and transportation and city services to remain economically viable, the mayor said. “Otherwise we will lose our economic development edge, which means we will not be able to sell Terre Haute. That is a real dilemma,” the mayor said.
Vigo County is one of four counties — which also includes LaPorte, Vanderburgh and Sullivan — that has not moved past the first step for a sales ratio study, recommended to be completed in May, for reassessment used to determine tax rates. Because of that, Bennett said “it will probably be next February or March when we will find out what our revenues will be, but we will already be two or three months into the year. That is just not acceptable.”
Bennett said he thinks the state must enact punitive measures to ensure the reassessment/tax rate process is not delayed.
Vigo County Assessor Debbie Lewis was out of her office Thursday on a state training session and could not be reached for comment. In addition, Bennett said he is now also concerned the state legislature is looking to remove other funding sources for cities such as cable franchise fees and personal property tax income.