Friday, May 2, 2014

Truth Reports Elkhart Homeowners Face Double Whammy with Sewer Hike and School Referendum

From the Elkhart Truth:

It's a bit more expensive to live in Elkhart due to recent sewer rate hikes in the city.
With the Elkhart and Concord school district property tax hike proposalson the ballot Tuesday, May 6, the cost of living could go up even more.

Elkhart residents living in the Elkhart Community Schools boundaries, depending on home value, could end up paying around $209 per year in new sewer fees and school property taxes by 2017 if the two Elkhart schools referendum questions are approved. Most of that, $148, is attributable to sewer fee increases, while $61 would come from increased school taxes.

City residents in the Concord Community Schools district could see increases of nearly $281 in sewer fees and school taxes if the Concord question is approved. Of the total, $148 stems from sewer fee hikes with another $133 in school tax hikes.

Still, calculating the potential increase isn't a black-and-white proposal.

Numerous factors figure in the exact magnitude of any spike in expenses at the individual level, like home value and amount of water used. The $209 and $281 estimates cited above are based on average household water consumption and homes with assessed valuations of $100,000.

Complicating things further, bond payments for projects started years ago in the Concord and Elkhart school districts will start phasing out in years to come. That will reduce expenses for the school systems, potentially helping offset, at least partially, property tax hikes that result from the referendum questions, if approved, according to officials from the two school districts.

Also of note, the Elkhart Community Schools Board of Trustees passed a resolution in January making a commitment to freeze the overall 2015 property tax rate for the district at the 2014 level, $1.2861 per $100 of net assessed valuation.

Thus, even if the two Elkhart school referendums are approved, the overall tax rate won't increase, at least next year. That should help keep the school portion of impacted homeowners' 2015 tax bills flat compared to 2014.

The expected end in 2015 of bond payments on high school upgrade projects dating to the late 1990s will reduce upward pressure on the tax rate and may even create downward pressure, explained Doug Hasler, executive director of support services for Elkhart Community Schools. It will help offset the impact of new taxes resulting from the referendums, enabling school officials to hold the overall district tax rate steady, at least in 2015.

If that all sounds complicated, it is. But nothing about taxes ever seems simple.