Friday, June 20, 2014

Times Argues Gary School Board Member is Tax Scofflaw

From the Northwest Indiana Times:

Lake County is right to take legal action against Gary School Board member Marion Williams, who owes more than $566,000 in back taxes and penalties.
Williams owns a total of 96 parcels, many of them in the Marshalltown neighborhood, with a total assessed value of more than $1.2 million.
Williams doesn't dispute the tax debts; however, he contends some of the properties should have been transferred to his ex-wife and children following a divorce.
He has no intention of paying the past-due taxes, he said. Instead of seeing himself as a deadbeat, he wants to portray himself as a victim.
"I wasn't making a profit from them. I'm not going to be paying taxes if there is no reward or profit in what I am doing. Part of it is about being a good businessman," he said.
And yet as a School Board member, Williams knows about the low property tax collection rate. Gary Community School Corp. collects just 42 percent of the taxes billed on real estate in the school district.
The result has been a $23.7 million budget deficit and the need to close six of the district's schools this year. Strangely, even though he contributed to that problem by being a tax deadbeat, Williams voted against closing the schools.
Williams is in the spotlight, as he should be, because he's a public official.
Those properties appear to be headed to another tax sale — a tool that isn't working as intended for properties that aren't really marketable.
Lake County Assessor Jolie Covaciu was right this week to suggest stitching together smaller properties to save money and, frankly, make real estate more marketable.
Covaciu cites as examples homes that sit on more than one lot. 
"In Cedar Lake, you have 25-foot lots," she said. "My house sits on four lots. I combined all of mine 15 years ago. If I hadn't done that, I would have all those lots paying separate taxes and fees."
That makes life easier for assessors while saving money for taxpayers.
Combining lots makes sense where they are too small to develop.
That's all academic in Williams' case, though. He gambled and lost, so it's time to pay up.