Property tax caps: the “other referendum”

Indianapolis attorney Fran Quigley writes this week in the Indy Star that approving the proposed Indiana constitutional amendment on property tax caps amounts to buying a used car without test-driving it.

“So far, the engine has been coughing and a funny-colored smoke is belching from the exhaust,” he writes in a guest opinion column. “It seems every day we are hearing more bad news from Indiana communities: teacher layoffs in Anderson, extra-curricular school programs canceled in Bloomington, bus routes and libraries at risk in Indianapolis.”

For voters in Bloomington, the constitutional amendment is the “other referendum” that will be on the ballot Nov. 2. It seems almost certain that the Monroe County Community School Corp. will propose an increase in local property taxes to help fund operating costs. At the same time, there will be a statewide vote on whether to enshrine property tax caps in the constitution. It could make for some confusion.

Political experts say the tax-cap measure will pass in a landslide. Results have been mixed on school-funding referendums around the state.

The property tax caps – 1 percent of assessed value for owner-occupied residences, 2 percent for farms and rental homes and 3 percent for business property – are already in state law. Supporters of the amendment say they want to protect the caps from some future legislature that would undo them.

The more likely rationale is that the law is vulnerable to a challenge by farm and business groups under Article 10 of the Indiana Constitution, which requires a “uniform and equal rate of property assessment and taxation.”

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