Property Assessments and Taxes 2012-2019

A five-year trend on assessments and taxes for property owners is available at the following: https://brownin.wthgis.com.

I contacted the vendor WTHGIS to see if I can get a copy of the file to support the analysis of trends.   I’ve had two offers from major organizations to provide analytical support on a pro-bono basis (for free) to help identify our challenges and opportunities.

In the interim in order to learn more about assessments, I pulled data from the State on the trends from 2012 to 2019 on “Adjusted Net Assessed Valuation.”  Assessed values can correlate to revenue collected from property taxes.   (I’m researching the issue with the intent to develop an article for the Brown County Democrat).

Assessed Values 2012-2019

Assessed values increased from a range of 7% to 16% “EXCEPT” for the Town of Nashville where assessed values decreased by 1%.

More Information on context:

April 9, 2019. BCD, Property tax bills are in the mail by Sara Clifford.  A property’s assessed value is one of the figures used to calculate a tax bill. … Overall, the net assessed value of property across all of Brown County — the taxable value after exemptions are subtracted — has grown by $35.5 million since tax year 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Finances and Taxes – A Primer

Our county government (commissioners and council) have identified their intent to borrow an estimated $10 -12 million to build a new Justice Center ($10 million)and to renovate/re-purpose the historic courthouse ( $1-2 million?). The second floor of the courthouse will be used to create offices for our “part-time” commissioners.

Citizens should expect commissioners and councilman to address some basic questions:

  • What documentation is available that identifies the compelling need for this project?
  • Was a workload analysis completed to support the size and scope of the facility?
  • Where is the documentation that identifies the alternatives and their respective pros and cons?
  • Where is the documentation that identifies the counties projected revenues and expenses over the life of the loan for these combined projects (justice center and historic courthouse) that supports that this project represents the best option for the county and is financially responsible?


PROPOSED JUSTICE CENTER PROJECT.
  For the background on this project, see  Proposed Justice Center and Historic Courthouse – For the Record

FINANCIAL PLAN 2016-2021. The presentation of the “first-ever” Five Year Financial Plan (2016-2021) on April 4, 2019, identified significant financial challenges. The suggestion is to increase taxes, max out the income tax rate which will the lead to the need to increase the property tax rate and/or cut the size and scope of government.

COUNTY TAX POLICIES

Last year, Umbaugh and Associates (Now Baker Tilly) provided a presentation at the library that illustrated the complexity of our tax system – The Basics of Local Government Budgeting.   The information included  “scenarios” (pages 22-24) regarding transitioning from the high-income tax rate/low property tax rate option.

IU/SPEA SUPPORT

2018. In partnership with IU/SPEA, graduate students have prepared two reports for us. The report last year (2018 Brown County Financial Decision Support Model, covered tax policy, trends, and projections.  Note page 19: ” “The average increase in levy and budget indicate increasing tax burden on a diminishing tax base. Based on these calculations, Brown County’s needs are out-pacing its ability to levy property taxes.”

  • July 4, 2018. Brown County Democrat.  IU students discuss how data can guide county’s financial decisions by Sara Clifford. A group of Indiana University graduate students spent last semester studying Brown County’s tax structure and other variables. Their goal was to help county leaders develop tools to forecast how changes in taxes, spending, and the county’s economy will affect taxpayers and local government — a “county financial and decision support model.”

 2017. The 2017 IU/SPEA Report: Economic Analysis provided an excellent overview of county economics.

 

Local Politics – 4.15.2019

Disclaimer:  I’ve routinely registered as a Republican in the primaries but do not vote a straight-party ticket.   I advocate for a nonpartisan political platform.

Mr. Biddle is a recent Republican appointment (April 2019) to the county election board. He made comments on the Brown County Matters (BCM) facebook post referring to the “5-minute crowd” and “Brown County Lifers.”  I asked for his definition of these terms and he did not respond.  (References below).

He did provide clarification on his personal Facebook page where he associated the “five-minute crowd”  with new residents to the county.  He stated:  “Of course relative new comers have a voice – from the BACK of the bus.

Political Context. Mr. Biddle is the husband of Commissioner (R) Diana Biddle. Mr. Biddle along with his proxy and former county commissioners John Kennard (R), was selected by the Republican County Party Chair – Mark Bowman to serve on the county election board. Mark Bowman and his wife Robyn are realtors and owners of Tramcore Realty. Robyn Bowman is a Vice-Precinct Committeeman.

Opponents to Mr. Biddle’s nomination cited a conflict of interest that was determined not to be sufficient to prevent his appointment.  Commissioner Diana Biddle was accused of an electioneering violation during the 2018 primaries and due to a conflict of interest,  the complaint was referred to a special prosecutor in Jackson County.  Reference: Sept 25, 2019, BCD, Special prosecutor to investigate election complaints by Sara Clifford.

John Kennard is a former Republican commissioner and was appointed in 2019 to the Parks and Recreation Board. Mr. Kennard was nominated to the Parks and Recreation board by Councilman Bill Hamilton whose wife Judy is the GOP county party secretary.  Mr. Kennard also applied to serve on the Brown County Regional Sewer District Board but was not selected by the county council.  One of the reasons that was given was that he was too controversial.

REFERENCES

April 11, 2019. BCM Facebook Post – Screen Shot of Mr. Biddles post: in which he states: “Of course relative new comers have a voice – from the BACK of the bus.”  This statement contradicts his earlier posts that stated that he plans on representing all the voters.”

April 5, 2019. BCM Facebook Post – Joint Meeting – Commissioners and Council – Proposed Justice Center and Five Year County Financial Plan

  • Brent Lee Biddle … no the Brown County lifers would win by an even larger margin over the 5 minute crowd.
  •  Tim J. Clark  Brent Lee Biddle How do you define a “Brown County lifer” and how do you define a “5 minute crowd”?

April 10, 2019. BCM Facebook Post: Sewer Assessment Equals $$$

  • Brent Lee Biddle Once again the 5 min crowd and other take up the cause—- 
  • Tim J. Clark Brent Lee Biddle “There you go again”. How do you define “5 minute crowd” and the term “Brown County Lifer” that you have also used. 

 

Election Board Meetings – For the Record

2019 Meeting Dates – Location is the County Office Building, Salmon Room, Start time 6:00.

April 11, 2019 – Amy Kelso elected President.  Sherrie Mitchell (D) and John Kennard (R) accepted as proxies.  Priority for the 2020 election is to review the lease for the voting machines.  A proposal for Voting Centers will be reviewed immediately following the 2020 elections.  The meeting lasted about an hour.

  • Audio Recording: n/a

May 9, 2019.

June 13, 2019.

July 11, 2019

Aug 8, 2019.

Sep 12, 2019.

Oct 10, 2019.

Nov 14, 2019

Dec 12, 2019.

 

Small towns in America are dying, but not here …

 As small towns elsewhere saw prosperity pass them by in favor of the big cities, something unusual happened to this rural hamlet tucked in the Bitterroot Valley: It flourished.

Two local boys came home from college and launched a microbrewery that takes in more than $1 million in annual sales.

Retirees arrived in droves, drawn by affordable land and recreation opportunities in the area’s snow-frosted mountains and trout-filled streams.

And the federal government’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories opened a state-of-the-art biosafety facility to investigate the deadliest viral diseases, including Ebola.

Hamilton’s median household income is $30,000 annually, well below the state’s $50,000 figure, though the gap is significantly narrower for married couples.

The outdoors is more than a scenic backdrop — it’s a pillar of the local economy.

The recreation industry plays an outsized role in determining the fate of places like Hamilton. In recent years, the recovery of a once-endangered fish, the west slope cutthroat trout, helped spur a surge in outdoor tourism. Some who come here as tourists later stay for good.

Nationwide, since the recession’s end, people have been more likely to move to counties with opportunities for outdoor activities than those without them, according to a January study by Headwaters Economics. ….  Recreation may make the difference between gaining or losing population, particularly in rural counties,” the study found.

At city hall, Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf, 40, seeks to balance growth and Hamilton’s small-town appeal. … “I don’t see a massive expansion of population. I see a nice steady growth,” Farrenkopf said. “I wouldn’t mind adding another 1,000 people to the city.”

But some local voices already have been raised against unbridled growth …

Small towns in America are dying, but not this Montana hamlet. – The Washington Post

County Comprehensive Financial Plan 2016 to 2021

March 18, 2019. Brown County IN Comprehensive Financial Plan 2016-2021

  • In addition to the plan, there needs to be some education and training for elected representatives and citizens to understand the basics of county finance.  A flowchart of the process would also be helpful.
    • Who will be maintaining and updating the data?
  • Projections assume no change in the tax base. The tax base is projected to decline.
  • The county is near the maximum rate allowed by state law on income tax and will have to rely on cutting expenses and/or raising property taxes.  Under state law, property taxes can increase every year and higher rates will create hardships.

Currently in-process — County Economic Development Strategic Plan.

WIP – County Financial Decision Support Model 

May 16, 2017.  IU/SPEA – Economic Assessment of Brown County.  Report: Local taxes, job options need further scrutiny,  By Sara Clifford/Brown County Democrat

Nov 1, 2018Town of Nashville 2016-2022 Financial Plan 2016-2022