Mayor Greg Ballard’s Many Tax Increases

Now that campaign season is rolling around our Mayor Ballard — whose original campaign charge was all about repealing property taxes in Indiana — is hauling out one of his favorite talking points: claiming he held the line on new taxes. Ballard was whipped into office on the froth of the anti-tax rabble after Governor Mitch Daniel’s repeated property tax bungles statewide.

In reality? Not at all true on the “holding the line” claim. The Indianapolis Times puts together the facts, with the help of an observant letter-writer (Melissa De Groff) to the Indianapolis Star:

The statement in the editorial “Recycling beats trash talking,” March 27, that Mayor Greg Ballard has held the line on tax increases simply doesn’t hold water. Ballard was elected on widespread anti-tax sentiment, vowing to repeal the bipartisan-supported income tax hike enacted to fund 200 additional police officers, and promising no new taxes during his administration.

It looked good in the paper. But more than two years into Ballard’s term, Indianapolis residents are still waiting. Instead of a full repeal of the income tax, Ballard delivered a fraction of his promise. Instead of no new taxes, Ballard has solicited 30 tax increases: one sewer rate hike, two water rate hikes and 27 user-fee hikes (“Indianapolis wants to boost user fees,” Dec. 23, 2009). And instead of “holding the line” on city spending, each of Ballard’s budgets have increased the property tax burden on residents.

World-class cities need to push forward continuously, like Eli Lilly and EnerDel do in the corporate world. That’s why additional recycling opportunities merit additional exploration. But “holding the line” won’t cut it, especially when Ballard hasn’t earned the praise.

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Mayor Peterson outlines how Daniels is going to screw Indy

Very interesting article in the Indianapolis Business Journal with outgoing Mayor Bart Peterson, and how Indianapolis is going to get screwed with Daniel’s proposed property tax reform.

IBJ: The Legislature is preparing to substantially reform Indiana’s property tax system. Lots of Indianapolis residents are very concerned about their property taxes. They want to see them reduced and permanently stabilized. What can the mayor do specifically, as opposed to the Legislature or other officials, about that problem?

Peterson: There’s only a limited amount that the mayor can do. You control the property-tax-supported spending that the City-County government engages in. But you can see how limited that authority is by the fact that property taxes in 2008—our last budget—the city property taxes that I’ve had responsibility for are actually going to be lower than when I took office. And yet, of course, property tax bills have skyrocketed.

One of the key things to keep an eye on in property tax reform is how are the interests of the cities being taken into account? Property tax payers have to be the number one concern, and they will be. I’m confident of that. Property tax payers will be winners in this restructuring. The question is what condition are Indiana’s cities going to be left in after it’s all over?

One of my highest priorities, had I been re-elected, would have been to be an advocate for Indianapolis and Marion County in that debate. An advocate without a vote, but nonetheless an advocate. I don’t think there’s anything more important to the future of Indianapolis than making sure that we have enough money to have excellent public safety, that we have enough money to be able to run local government. Because local government is the level of government that most touches people’s lives.

IBJ: You repeatedly trimmed local budgets that you controlled for the city and county. If Gov. Mitch Daniels’ property tax plan goes through as proposed, it would eliminate an estimated $100 million in local revenues. If a city the size of Indianapolis is forced to make that substantial a cut, or to increase its income taxes equivalently in response, what will be the result?

Peterson: The answer I just gave deals partially with that, in saying I think that’s an example of how, with taxpayers being the winners, as they should be, there’s got to be somebody who’s a loser. And it seems pretty clear that’s going to be the cities.

You’re not going to find $100 million of fat in the city and county budget. If the city of Indianapolis and Marion County have to cut $100 million in spending, believe me, people will feel it. This won’t be the city we want it to be if the city has to lay off police officers, close parks, not pave streets or build sidewalks, all those basic services that city government provides. That needs to be understood and taken into account in the upcoming debate.

Continue ReadingMayor Peterson outlines how Daniels is going to screw Indy

Bart Peterson’s Letter to Marion County Property Tax Payers

Making the rounds via email:

July 20, 2007
Dear Neighbors:
We have taken the first important steps toward long-term property tax reform. The Governor’s order of a Marion County reassessment is welcome news to our friends and neighbors who have been shocked by the unacceptable tax bills issued this month. Thanks to the reassessment, Marion County tax bills will be frozen at 2006 levels. Although this immediate fix is enormously helpful, we will continue to push for a special session of the General Assembly to harness the momentum and frustration of the community and translate that into long-term reform of our broken property tax system.
As community concern has risen, so has the flow of misinformation. It is important that we all understand the facts and causes for the dramatic increases many are experiencing. Some have argued that runaway city government spending is the cause of the increase. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We have been frugal, cutting $83 million from our budget, and have led the charge for government efficiency and consolidation. In fact, the city’s portion of the property tax bill has actually decreased significantly since I took office and the city tax rate is about the same as it was in 2003. Further, city and county expenses were only 2-3% of the total property tax increase for Marion County.
The source of the increase is complex. The tax rate in Marion County is made up of dozens of taxing units that are under the control of independent boards and separately elected officials. The real cause of the property tax increases has been a combination of many factors including:

  • The elimination of the inventory tax, which has shifted the tax burden from businesses to homeowners this year.
  • The apparent under-assessment of commercial property, shifting the tax burden to homeowners.
  • The State capped the “property tax replacement credit” which provided annual relief to property taxpayers.
  • Many school capital projects hit at the same time this year.
  • Mandated state payments for child welfare and juvenile incarceration increased dramatically in 2006 & 2007.

As a result of the reassessment, Marion County Treasurer, Mike Rodman announced that the tax bills are now due on August 10, 2007 and instructed taxpayers to pay the amount listed as due on your tax bill from last year. If you are unsure what to pay, check online at and click the link for “View your new 2007 property tax.” If you have further questions, call 327-4444. In addition, I have activated a team of lawyers to give assistance during special evening hours.
As I have said from the beginning of this crisis, now is not the time for finger- pointing or playing the blame game. Working together with the Governor, the legislature, and our City-County Council, we will get this fixed.
Bart Peterson

Boy, I wish he had left off the first sentence of the last paragraph, ’cause that just sounds Republican.

Continue ReadingBart Peterson’s Letter to Marion County Property Tax Payers