This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tuesday night fun

Tuesday evening had only three meetings, not the four of Monday. The Jasper County Historical Society met for its annual Christmas Party. The Rensselaer Central School Board met for its monthly meeting, as did the County Council.

I stopped by the Historical Society's party and enjoyed some food and conversation. I was the first to leave and I arrived at the County Council meeting about eight minutes late, while the Council was approving transfers of funds.

Karen Wilson then addressed the Council with her pitch that everyone should be involved with the Indiana Bicentennial events in the coming year. It was much the same presentation that she gave to the Rensselaer City Council the night before. I think I misunderstood her on Monday with the number of nominations for torch bearer. The torch will be in Jasper County for two hours on Oct 11, 2016. There are twenty slots open for people to carry the torch (and they get some freebies like a tee shirt and maybe a hat and jacket). Anyone can nominate or be nominated (though if you do nominate someone, it would be courteous to clear it with the person you are nominating). Jasper County will be the 82nd of 92 counties on the torch route and the torch is scheduled to be in Indianapolis on Oct 15, 2016. January 31 will be the last day on which you can nominate a torch bearer.

Citizen Tom Mathis from Wheatfield gave the council members a letter he had received from the public access counselor. (You can read it here.) He has argued that the BZA has not followed proper procedures regarding variances and says he has been refused information that legally should be provided to him, which is why he appealed to the public access counselor.

Some of the people who had attended the Animal Control Board meeting on Monday night attended the Council meeting expecting a discussion of a pay raise for the new director of Animal Control. (See here for the introduction of the issue to the Council. I cannot find recent minutes of Council meetings on the County website.) They were told that the issue would be on the agenda for January 19. If it is, the meeting should be interesting.

I had reason to look at county tax rates recently and noticed that next year Jasper County will be the third (rather than second) highest county tax rate. Pulaski and Wabash Counties are higher. Pulaski has a tax that is almost the same as the state income tax and is the only county with a tax above 3%. 21 of the 92 counties have taxes of 2% up to 3%--Jasper County is in this group. 61 of the counties have taxes from 1% up to 2%, and nine have tax rates below 1%.

Having heard people complaining about how high the income tax is and from farmers about how their property taxes have been soaring, I wondered if Jasper County was awash in tax revenues. So I asked  for an explanation during the public comments section of the meeting. Here is how I understand the answer.

The amount that the county is allowed to collect in taxes is set by the state. The state estimates the amount that will be collected by the county income tax and then looks at the assessed valuation of the land to determine what property tax rate will result in the target amount of revenue. If the assessed valuation of farm land has been rising more rapidly than the assessed valuation of home and business property, taxes will be reduced for the latter group and increased for the former. Since the farm land in fact has been rising more rapidly in assessed value than other kinds of property, the tax burden is being shifted to farmers.

Here is a numerical example that illustrates what has been happening. (The numbers are for illustration only--they are picked for convenience.) Suppose in a base year the value of farm land is $1000 and the value of other property is also $1000 and the tax rate is 1%. Then the tax paid by farm land will be $10 and the tax paid by the other property will also be $10, or a total of $20. Now suppose the value of the farm land rises to $1500 and the value of other property rises to $1100, or a total of $2600. To maintain the same total tax revenue of $20, the tax rate needs to be a little less than .77%. At that rate the farm land will pay $11.55 and the other property $8.47, or a total of $20.02. Hence, even with an income tax meant to reduce property taxes there can be people complaining about rising property taxes. (After the meeting one of the council members said he was not sure that the state did not get some of the money that is earmarked for the county.) If the value of farm land falls, as it very well may as the result of reduced crop prices and poor recent yields, and the county income tax rate is reduced, we will see an increase in the property taxes on homes.  (But if you compare property taxes on homes in Jasper County to property taxes just about anywhere else, you will see that ours are very low.)

(Sorry for the math. Does anyone know why Pulaski County has an income tax rate that is substantially higher than any other income tax rate in the state?)

Late Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning city utility crews were busy for several hours repairing downed utility poles along Lincoln Street. It appears that a vehicle left the road coming into town on Bunkum and hit the utility pole on the corner of Abigail and Lincoln, knocking it down. As it fell, it pulled down two other poles along Lincoln. About a dozen homes lost electrical power.

This morning there were three new poles and bits and pieces of the three old poles. City crews will have to spend some time today completing the repairs. It seems they did enough last night to restore power but decided to wait until decent light to finish.

The third pole that was replaced.

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