Chesterton Tribune

County Council passes on opportunity to waive penalties on delinquent taxes

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

With Indiana counties having just a few days to consider passing an ordinance to give delinquent taxpayers a break on their back taxes, the Porter County Council refrained from action Tuesday to grant amnesty on property taxes.

In House Enrolled Act 1090, the state gives county councils the authority to grant a one-year moratorium on all penalties and interest on unpaid taxes owed before Jan. 1 this year. If the taxpayer can redeem all current and delinquent taxes by July 1, 2013, with the county treasurers office, their fees would be dropped. The one-time amnesty is an incentive for taxpayers to stay off the lists for tax sales and a chance for counties to recoup taxes owed.

The county commissioners looked at the new law a few months ago when the county auditors office proposed a plan to waive back taxes on multi-unit dwellings in violation of their homestead credit if the property owner corrected their records with the auditors office. The plan was dropped however when the state said no law exists for counties to grant amnesty.

A few council members said at that time they would consider a measure to help out delinquent taxpayers. Council vice-president Karen Conover, R-3rd, towards the end of the meeting Tuesday reminded her peers they needed to decide on it before July 1.

Council president Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he has continued discussions with a few taxpayers and came to the conclusion that having payment plans with amnesty would not be fair to those residents who do make timely payments.

Council member Sylvia Graham said she consulted the county treasurers office which advised her that only a small percentage of properties have been late on taxes and echoed Whittens comments.

"I do believe it is unfair to people who pay their taxes on time," she said.

County Treasurer Mike Bucko said 74,577 of the countys 81,958 parcels are up to date on their taxes and 1,750 properties are in bankruptcy. He said he recently sent an e-mail to other treasurers to ask if their counties had enacted the policy and Lake was the only one which responded saying they have.

The council ended up not voting on a motion to adopt the policy, instead Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, moved to adjourn the meeting.

Conover showed strong interest in the plan saying this one-time deal could have helped a few residents save their homes.

"Some people have fallen on hard times," she said.

Council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, said the county could look into other payment plans to help keep taxpayers properties off the tax sale list.

 

Posted 6/29/2012