On appeal, Clark County provides the Court with three reasons why the DLGF’s final determination is invalid and should be reversed. First, Clark County argues that the DLGF abused its discretion by arbitrarily and capriciously determining that the Council did not make a data error, correctable under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-14, when it approved its 2008 property tax levy for $2.7 million less than what was statutorily permitted. Second, Clark County argues that the DLGF contravened the law when it failed to apply retroactively the 2011 statutory amendment that eliminated the “use it or lose it” provision from the formula contained in Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-3. Third, Clark County argues that the DLGF violated its due process rights.
Clark County claims that the DLGF abused its discretion by arbitrarily and capriciously determining that the Council did not make a data error, correctable under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-14, when it approved its 2008 property tax levy for $2.7 million less than what was statutorily permitted. (See Pet’r Br. at 13-16.) Clark County acknowledges that the Council intentionally decided not to ask for the maximum levy allowable under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-3. (See Pet’r Br. at 14-15.) Nonetheless, it argues that that decision constituted a data error correctable under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-14 because
[n]o responsible member of the  Council would have knowingly and intentionally breached their primary statutory duty to budget and appropriate sufficient funds to provide for the essential functions of Clark County government, thereby jeopardizing the public health, safety, and welfare of its citizens by the consequences of the dire financial condition which has inevitably now resulted. To the contrary, while the vote of the  Council to reduce the 2008 department budgets . . . may have been an intentional act, it is clear… that the  Council had no clue of the long-term financial damage that [this decision would] inflict on Clark County and its citizens by the resultant maximum levy reduction.
(Pet’r Br. at 14-15.) In other words, Clark County argues that the Council made a data error when it decided to forego the additional revenue that could be generated through the levy because it could not have foreseen any of the unexpected financial expenses and setbacks that would occur in 2009 and beyond. (See, e.g., Oral Arg. Tr. at 27-28 (asserting that the Council could not have possibly known in 2008 “what issues would crawl out of the woodwork” in subsequent years).)
Unambiguous statutes must be read to mean what they plainly express and that plain meaning may not be enlarged or restricted. Indiana Dep’t of State Revenue v. Horizon Bancorp, 644 N.E.2d 870, 872 (Ind. 1994). Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-14(a) unambiguously allows for the correction of an “error in data,” not an error in interpreting that data. See I.C. § 6-1.1-18.5-14(a). Thus, the statute allows for the correction of an objective error only, not a subjective error. This conclusion is supported by the fact that Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-14 allows the DLGF to correct an error in data on its own initiative (indicating that the error is not only readily fixable, but that it is easily observable to someone who did not make it). See id.
Here, there is no record evidence to indicate that there was an objective error in the Council’s data when it made its decision to forego the maximum levy allowable for 2008. Indeed, the evidence indicates that when it made its decision, the Council had accurate numbers as well as a warning from the DLGF that the consequence of reducing its 2008 levy would be to significantly reduce the county’s maximum levy in 2009, regardless of what the future held. Despite the DLGF’s warning, the Council proceeded to approve a property tax levy for $2.7 million less than what was statutorily allowed in 2008. This was not an “error in data,” nor was it even an error in interpreting data. Instead, it was simply a failure on the part of the Council to plan for budgetary contingencies. Consequently, the Court will not reverse the DLGF’s final determination on this basis.
Clark County also claims that the final determination should be reversed because the DLGF should have retroactively applied the 2011 statutory amendment that eliminated the “use it or lose it provision” incorporated within Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-3’s calculation of “maximum permissible ad valorem property tax levy.” (Pet’r Br. at 16-19.) Clark County argues that the Legislature intended this amendment to be applied retroactively because it is remedial. (See Pet’r Br. at 18-19.)
Without strong and compelling reasons, statutes and statutory amendments will not be applied retroactively. See Indiana Dep’t of State Revenue v. Estate of Riggs, 735 N.E.2d 340, 344 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2000). An exception to this general rule exists for remedial statutes and amendments, i.e., those statutes and amendments that are intended to cure a defect or a mischief that existed in a prior statute. State v. Pelley, 828 N.E.2d 915, 919 (Ind. 2005). “Ultimately however, whether or not a statute [or amendment] applies retroactively depends on the legislature’s intent.” Bourbon Mini-Mart, Inc. v. Gast Fuel and Servs., Inc., 783 N.E.2d 253, 260 (Ind. 2003). Thus, “when a remedial statute is involved, a court must construe it to ‘effect the evident purpose for which it was enacted[.]’” Id. (citation omitted).
Prior to July 1, 2011, the Legislature included the “use it or lose it provision” in the formula for calculating and adjusting a “maximum permissible ad valorem property tax levy for the preceding calendar year[.]” See I.C. §§ 6-1.1-18.5-1, -3. Effective thereafter, however, the Legislature completely removed that provision from the calculation. See Pub.L.No. 124-2011 § 1 (eff. July 1, 2011). Clark County asserts that this amendment was remedial because the original statute’s defect of being too complex. (See Pet’r Br. at 18 (asserting that “the Indiana Legislature recognized that the procedures for calculating and adjusting maximum levies needed to be simplified” when it eliminated the “use it or lose it” provision).)
The best evidence of the Legislature's intent is found in the actual language used within a statute or an amendment. DeKalb Cnty. E. Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Dep’t of Local Gov’t Fin., 930 N.E.2d 1257, 1260 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2010). Here, the words of the amendment unambiguously provided that it was not entitled to retroactive effect. See Pub.L.No. 124-2011 § 1 (stating that the “use it or lose it” provision was eliminated “[f]or purposes of determining a maximum permissible ad valorem property tax levy under [Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-3] for property taxes imposed for an assessment date after January 15, 2011” (emphasis added)). Accordingly, the statutory amendment eliminating the “use it or lose it” provision was not remedial.
Finally, Clark County claims that Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-12 required the DLGF to conduct a hearing on its levy appeal, and by not doing so, the DLGF deprived it of its right to due process. (See Pet’r Br. at 11-12.) Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-12, however, did not require the DLGF to conduct an administrative hearing on Clark County’s levy appeal.
The relevant portions of Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-12 state that
(a) Any civil taxing unit that determines that it cannot carry out its governmental functions for an ensuing calendar year under the levy limitations imposed by [Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-3] may . . . appeal to the [DLGF] for relief from those levy limitations. In the appeal the civil taxing unit must state that it will be unable to carry out the governmental functions committed to it by law unless it is given the authority that it is petitioning for. The civil taxing unit must support these allegations by reasonably detailed statements of fact.
(b) The [DLGF] shall immediately proceed to the examination and consideration of the merits of the civil taxing unit’s appeal.
(c) In considering an appeal, the [DLGF] has the power to conduct hearings, require any officer or member of the appealing civil taxing unit to appear before it, or require any officer or member of the appealing civil taxing unit to provide [it] with any relevant records or books.
IND. CODE § 6-1.1-18.5-12(a)-(c) (2010) (emphasis added). This statutory language merely provided the DLGF with the discretionary power to conduct a hearing on Clark County’s levy appeal. See, e.g., Horizon Bancorp, 644 N.E.2d at 872 (explaining that the plain and obvious meaning of an unambiguous statute may not be enlarged or restricted). Because Indiana Code § 6-1.1-18.5-12 did not require the DLGF to hold a hearing on Clark County’s levy appeal and Clark County has not provided the Court with any other legal analysis to support its claim that it has been deprived of due process, the DLGF’s final determination will not be reversed on this basis.