Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2005
New study looks at property taxes and financing local government in Lake County
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Culminating an eight-month project initiated by Gary, Ind., consulting firm Partners for Good LLC, three Indiana University research centers spanning three campuses will release results of their study on Lake County property taxes and local government finances on Friday (March 4) at 8 a.m. CST.
The study will be released and findings will be highlighted at a public meeting of the Quality of Life Council at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville, Ind. Attendees will receive a CD-ROM copy of the study along with the executive summary. The study also will be posted at that time on the Web at http://www.ibrc.indiana.edu/lakegov.
The Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, together with the Center for Sustainable Regional Vitality and the Local Government Academy at IU Northwest, researched the effects of the new market-value-based property tax assessment on the cities, towns and townships of Lake County. The study also examined the cost-effectiveness of local governments in the county.
Their findings are coupled with 19 recommendations for residents and governments in Lake County.
The findings reveal:
- which parts of Lake County were hardest hit by reassessment and other recent changes in property taxes
- which local governments spend the most or the least in providing public services -- administration, public safety, parks, education and the courts
- which taxpayers actually would benefit from a property tax cap if such relief were continued in the county.
Recommendations focus on issues and questions such as the following:
- the need to search for ways to improve efficiency in local government operations
- whether some public services should be consolidated across local government units
- whether fees should be charged for services
- the question of who should pay for welfare costs
- whether there should be continued relief to Lake County taxpayers.
The study was supported by a broad constituency of business, government, taxpayers and real estate organizations in order to present the facts of tax and government finance to the public and to help inform decision-making in Lake County.
"Lake County has issues that must be dealt with to remain a vital and integral part of the state's economy. Property taxes and local government spending are keys to the continued health of not only the northwest Indiana housing market but the region's economy as a whole," said Nancy Smith, executive vice president of the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors, in explaining why her group supported the study.
"We must be willing to step up to the plate and help ourselves. The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors felt it was imperative that we become involved to spearhead positive change for the region. Our association sees this nonpartisan study as the first critical step in an ongoing process," Smith added.
Jerry Conover, director of the Indiana Business Research Center, spoke about the university's and his center's interest in doing such a study. "For change to take place, citizens, government officials and business leaders of Lake County must first have meaningful data and analyses so that they can make sound, informed decisions about the future. We look forward to continuing the database of tax and financial data we have built and using it as a benchmarking and analysis tool for other counties as well," Conover said.
The 120-page study provides a detailed set of benchmarks that communities throughout the county can use to see how they were affected by the property tax changes and also to compare their performance to other units of government. The study leaders expect that the report will stimulate a great deal of discussion throughout Lake County.
Funding support for the study came from Bank Calumet, Bank One, BP Products, the City of Whiting, Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors, Horseshoe Casino, International Steel Group, Ispat Inland, Lake County United Way, Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Mercantile Bank, Miller Citizens Corp., NIPSCO, Sand Ridge Bank, The Times of Northwest Indiana, Tugtel Communications and United States Steel Corp.