Watchdog Indiana Home Page
Watchdog Indiana provides information about the revenues, spending, and long-term debt assumption of Indiana local and state governments. An online community is established where Hoosiers come together voluntarily to help encourage our state and local governments better respond to the needs of working families.
Watchdog Indiana is a
non-profit, non-connected, and non-party advocate for good government that focuses on the
state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families.
Watchdog Indiana was founded by Aaron Smith on November 14, 2001.
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Immediate action needed!
12/05/2013: Owners of real property within a political subdivision, and registered voters residing within a political subdivision, can help protect themselves from Taxpayer UNfriendly local bond issues by using the petition and remonstrance process.
If a local bond issue is supported by property tax revenue and is more than the lesser of $2 million or 1 percent of the total gross assessed value of property within the political subdivision on the last assessment date ($1 million minimum), any combination of 100 owners of real property within the political subdivision or registered voters residing within the political subdivision can petition to initiate a petition and remonstrance process within 30 days of the notice of preliminary determination to issue the bonds. After 30 more days, supporters and opponents each gather petition signatures for another 30-day period of time. If a greater number of owners of real property within the political subdivision or registered voters residing within the political subdivision sign a petition opposing the bonds issue, the bonds issue is defeated and cannot be considered again for the next 12 months.
An important part of the petition and
remonstrance process is the following Indiana Code provision that
prohibits political subdivisions from avoiding the petition and
remonstrance process in IC 6-1.1-20-3.2 by artificially dividing a capital
project into multiple capital projects that do not exceed $2 million:
Procedures to be completed by political subdivision before imposing property taxes for bonds or lease for certain projects
The Lebanon Department of Parks Board is currently pursuing a $2 million bond issue that will be paid for with a property tax increase after artificially dividing its $4.52 million new swimming pool capital project into three capital projects to avoid the petition and remonstrance process.This particularly egregious and unlawful artificial division of a capital project to force an unnecessary property tax increase is fully documented at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_park_pool.htm.
The responsibility falls to our Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to thwart the unlawful attempt by the Lebanon Department of Parks Board to artificially divide its $4.52 million new swimming pool capital project into three capital projects to avoid the petition and remonstrance process.It is reassuring that the stated mission of our DLGF is “to ensure a fair and equitable property tax system for Indiana taxpayers” and that the number one DLGF core value is “Put taxpayers first.”
The Lebanon Department of Parks Board is required to certify to our DLGF the additional budget appropriation the Parks Board approved on December 4 to spend the proceeds from the planned $2 million bond issue on more amenities for the new swimming pool that is currently under construction. The preponderance of evidence included in detailed documentation already provided to our DLGF clearly shows the $4.52 million new Lebanon swimming pool project has been artificially divided into multiple capital projects to avoid the petition and remonstrance process. Therefore, the Parks Board cannot lawfully issue the $2 million of pool bonds. If the pool bonds cannot be lawfully issued, then sufficient funds cannot be available for the $2 million additional budget appropriation. Our DLGF has been requested to disapprove the Parks Board additional budget appropriation because sufficient funds cannot be available in accordance with the Indiana Code provision IC 6-1.1-18-5(f).
The Indiana Code provision IC 6-1.1-20-3.1(c), which prohibits political subdivisions from artificially dividing a capital project into multiple capital projects to avoid the petition and remonstrance process, was enacted only a couple of years ago. The Lebanon Department of Parks Board additional budget appropriation may very well be the first “test case” where our DLGF takes IC 6-1.1-20-3.1(c) into consideration to prevent unneeded property tax increases. For this reason, it is important to ALL Hoosier taxpayers that our DLGF protect the petition and remonstrance process by thoroughly and fairly deciding whether to disapprove the Lebanon Department of Parks Board additional budget appropriation because the $4.52 million new swimming pool capital project was artificially divided into three capital projects.
Please ACT NOW and contact our DLGF Commissioner Micah Vincent(MVincent@dlgf.in.gov, 317-234-5720) and DLGF General Counsel Cathy Wolter (CWolter@dlgf.in.gov, 317-233-4361) to let them know you hope they thoroughly consider disapproving the Lebanon Department of Parks Board additional budget appropriation because the $4.52 million new swimming pool capital project was artificially divided into three capital projects. The integrity of our petition and remonstrance process cannot be upheld if any political subdivision is allowed to artificially divide a capital project into multiple capital projects in order to avoid the petition and remonstrance requirements.
05/03/2013: This ALERT is applicable to the following counties that have NOT adopted a Taxpayer UNfriendly regressive motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax: Adams, Bartholomew, Benton, Blackford, Boone, Clark, Crawford, Dearborn, DeKalb, Floyd, Franklin, Fulton, Grant, Hamilton, Harrison, Huntington, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jennings, Knox, Kosciusko, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marshall, Martin, Miami, Newton, Ohio, Orange, Pike, Porter, Pulaski, Ripley, Scott, Spencer, Starke, Steuben, Switzerland, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, White.
Effective June 1, any city council or town board in the 45 counties listed above may take the first step to pass a county-wide motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax by adopting (after notice and public hearing) a resolution supporting a proposed ordinance to implement the surtax/wheel tax. The resolution is sent to the county auditor who has 10 days to notify the county council and the other city councils and town boards in the county that they must, after notice and public hearing, vote on the resolution supporting the proposed ordinance within 30 days. Passage of a county surtax/wheel tax in this way is Taxpayer UNfriendly because there is a possibility in many counties for a minority of county, city, and town council/board members representing a minority of the county population to impose a county-wide surtax/wheel tax.
An E-mail was sent on May 2 by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) to its members emphasizing that there is a one month window from June 1 to July 1 to adopt a county surtax/wheel tax and make it effective for 2014.
IACT members like to publicize themselves under the “Trust Local” tag line. The sad truth is that the only thing we can trust many of our local municipal governments to do is be greedy grabbers of ever more tax dollars to subsidize the pro-developer interests who work very hard to “influence” the local elected officials who are supposed to be our public servants. IACT is promoting the passage of a surtax/wheel tax in more counties even though our Indiana General Assembly acted this year to increase annual transportation funding for cities and towns by 34% and counties by 23% WITHOUT new transportation tax increases.
The 2013-15 state budget just passed by our General Assembly makes better use of the existing state Gasoline Tax and state Sales Tax revenues from gasoline purchases to significantly increase local transportation funding. Estimates of how many more transportation dollars each of the local governing units in Boone County will get from the state when compared to 2012 can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/transportation_funding_increases.htm. The methodology used to estimate the Boone County local transportation funding increases can also be used to estimate how many more local transportation funding dollars will be received during the coming years in every other Indiana county.
Estimates of upcoming local funding transportation increases can be used to counter the money-grabbing mindset of those municipalities who want to impose a county-wide surtax/wheel tax. It is shameful during this time of slow recovery from the Great Recession for municipalities to want a new surtax/wheel tax at the same time they are receiving a large increase in transportation funding from the state!
Watchdogs will need to be more vigilant to oppose the imposition of unneeded county surtax/wheel taxes. Every municipality in the 45 counties without a surtax/wheel tax will have to be “watched like a hawk” to determine if the council or board intends to consider a resolution supporting a proposed ordinance to implement the surtax/wheel tax. Please send an E-mail to Watchdog Indiana at email@example.com if you learn that a municipality is considering a surtax/wheel tax resolution – Watchdogs in the impacted county will be alerted to take action.
One potential benefit of the significant local transportation funding increases from the state is that the county councils that have imposed a surtax/wheel tax may be able to reduce or rescind those surtax/wheel taxes!
NEW! Homestead Deductions Threat: Indiana General Assembly legislation has been authored that would increase the property tax burden of Residential and Agricultural Homesteads by 12.18%. The following property classes would pay 13.67% less in property taxes: Agricultural Business, Commercial, Commercial Apartments, Exempt Organizations, Industrial, Nonhomestead Residential, Utilities. This legislation would disproportionally and dramatically increase the property taxes on the owners of lower value homes while the owners of higher value homes would have a lesser or no property tax increase.
UPDATED! Indiana General Assembly & Governor Ratings: Watchdog Indiana provides the only ratings of state legislators and the governor based on how their votes on key legislative proposals from 2002 to the present affect the state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families.
Who Are Your Elected Officials: You can enter your address or click on a map to see a list of all your elected official - local, state, federal - in one place. All information on this site is maintained by your local county circuit court clerk's office in conjunction with the Indiana Secretary of State's office.
Indiana Transparency Portal: This one-stop online portal for state government information provides easy access to all state contracts, employee salaries, an interactive budget section, revenue data, state debt authority overview, financial statements for both local governments and state government, performance information, and recovery and reinvestment act information.
Stop Local Option Waste (SLOW): The SLOW webpage summarizes by county the actions that Hoosier fiscal patriots have taken to stop the wasteful spending of our hard-earned federal tax dollars on unnecessary nice-to-have local projects that do not address high-priority needs. Everyday citizens must provide the leadership needed to overpower the single-interest advocates whose cumulative efforts enable the Congressional gridlock that fosters ruinous federal deficit spending.
Third Grade Best Practices Practices Inventory Report: Nine "Best Practices" have been identified from the Best Practices data provided by some Principals of the Indiana elementary schools that were among the Third Grade Spring 2010 ISTEP+ Results Leaders. These improvement ideas will be helpful to those Hoosiers concerned about K-12 public education.
Indiana's Cash For College: Updated annually in the lead-up to Indiana's March 10 financial aid deadline, Cash for College works to equip students and families with the practical steps needed to plan and pay for college. Indiana's Cash for College Campaign is made possible by Learn More Indiana, a partnership of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana.
2008 House Bill 1001: Thanks to the November 2, 2010 passage of the Constitutional Amendment, this comprehensive property tax relief bill makes the state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families more fair and affordable by moving away from property taxes to sales and income taxes.
Redevelopment Commissions Oversight: Watchdog Indiana supports much improved oversight over redevelopment commissions and departments by (a) the legislative or fiscal body of the taxing unit that created a redevelopment commission or department, (b) the State Board of Accounts, and (c) everyday Hoosiers through the public meeting and public records laws.
UPDATED! Rational Municipal Annexations and Reorganizations: Many concerned Hoosiers realize that Indiana Code changes are needed to protect against illogical and predatory municipal annexations and reorganizations.
Township Government Reform: Watchdog Indiana has developed a position on township government reform that includes placing the public question "Shall the township government be retained?" on the ballot in every county.
Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network: If you or someone you know is behind on the mortgage, or even in danger of falling behind, please contact the IFPN, a statewide program to provide free mortgage foreclosure counseling and education to at-risk homeowners. All Network services are free, and all Network counselors are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
IHCDA University: The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has a free online course to educate prospective homebuyers on the home purchasing process.
Lobbyists and the Legislature: How much do lobbyists spend? Which lawmakers accept gifts from lobbyists? The Indianapolis Star has established a searchable database of Indiana General Assembly lobbyist spending for the reporting periods from May 2009 through April 2010.
Watchdog Indiana Topics Index
Click here for access to the various Watchdog Indiana web pages related to 25 different topic areas.
Listed below are several ways you can help control Indiana taxes and spending.
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Visit the Indiana General Assembly & Governor Ratings for a candidate's rating when voting for State Representatives and State Senators.
E-mail to the Editor of your local newspaper a letter or opinion article about state cash revenues, cash spending, and long-term debt assumption. Use Letters To The Editor Via E-mail to find the E-mail address of the Editor of your local newspaper.
Use the Local Government Factfinding List to understand and influence the revenues, spending, and long-term debt assumption decisions of your local government.
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Establish a local Watchdog chapter for your local government. See the Constitution And Bylaws for organizational details. Watchdog Lebanon is an example of a local Watchdog chapter.
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This page was last updated on 12/05/13.