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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Cities, towns: Let's be clear about tax caps in Indiana's constitution

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, January 18, 2010 09:50 am
The issue of property tax caps has not only dominated conversations at the Statehouse, it has also been the focus of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) and its members for the past several years. Given this domination, it is shocking to hear comments from lawmakers who attempt to excuse their votes in favor of constitutional tax caps by saying local government hasn't made enough noise to prevent them.We have held hundreds of meetings with legislators, testified in dozens of committee hearings, held news conferences, sought out editorial board meetings with newspapers statewide, formed alliances with like-minded organizations and developed data models to show the potential negative impacts of permanent caps.

It is important for everyone to understand that the tax caps, which are currently in state law, were fully implemented only days ago.

When the caps were first discussed, lawmakers and state leaders told us cities and towns needed to be more creative, do more with less, make massive cuts and quit complaining about how the caps could be harmful to our ability to deliver local services. Local leaders have complied with the caps as they have been phased in and accomplished this in a highly professional manner. They have strived to be the leaders the people in their communities expect them to be.

For some municipalities, the impact of the caps has been minimal, or maybe they have had to spend down their reserves. For some, it has meant making small cuts across the board or finding ways to consolidate functions with other departments or localities.

And for others, it has meant massive cuts in services such as fire safety, police, parks and recreation and more. Someday soon, as the impact of the caps becomes more broadly felt, the reality is that creativity and drive won't be enough to continue providing the services that residents of Indiana's cities and towns deserve and expect. And when this happens, I can assure you, the leaders of Indiana's cities and towns will sleep well knowing we tried to inform lawmakers of the consequences.

The leaders of IACT and the leaders of Indiana's municipalities have grave concerns over the placement of the existing property tax caps into the Indiana Constitution. This action will forever tie the hands of future General Assemblies to react to any unforeseen economic reality and put a level of specificity into our Constitution that is completely unprecedented. It is also important to remember that this measure is mostly only protecting a small percentage of homeowners.

We have shared these and other concerns with lawmakers on multiple occasions for more than three years. The placement of tax caps into the Indiana Constitution could seriously impact the future of Indiana's cities and towns and their long-term ability to grow jobs in safe, clean and affordable communities.

IACT is a coalition of municipal officials who seek to improve the quality of life in Indiana through effective government and is a member of the National League of Cities. Founded in 1891, IACT is one of the oldest state municipal organizations in the country, with 470 cities and towns as members. IACT advocates for municipalities as the official voice of municipal government in Indiana and promotes good government through education, training and leadership.

For more information, view our Web site at www.citiesandtowns.org or contact Jennifer Simmons at jsimmons@cities andtowns.org.

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