News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

September 22, 2013

READERS' FORUM: Sept. 22, 2013

(Continued)

Lessons from the annexation battle

We are now a few days removed from the Sullivan annexation remonstrance hearing.

What did we learn? We learned beyond a shadow of any doubt that Sullivan taxpayers are subsidizing unincorporated Hamilton Township and the annexation territory. Is there a tax increase from annexation? Unquestionably, yes. But let’s look at what makes up nearly all of that increase.

A Sullivan taxpayer pays a tax rate for fire protection services in excess of 70 cents per $100 in net assessed value of their property. A township taxpayer pays a rate for identical fire service from the identical fire department of approximately 5 cents per $100 in net assessed value. The Sullivan taxpayer pays approximately 13.5 times more for the same fire protection as the township taxpayer.

On top of that, the Sullivan Police Department is dispatched by the annexation territory approximately once every other day to the annexation territory — that is roughly 10 percent of all of our police runs. The township taxpayer pays nothing for that service.

Our tax policy actually encourages businesses to locate outside our borders and encourages existing businesses to relocate outside the border. Is it any wonder that we have seen our commercial corridor disappear? And every time someone relocates outside of town because of these subsidies, it leaves a smaller group of Sullivan taxpayers to shoulder an even greater load. It is a death spiral for our community that must be stopped.

What are our options? Legally, we could terminate the fire contract and stop responding to police calls, but that isn’t a practical solution. Our children go to school in the annexation territory, our friends and family live in the annexation territory and our hospital is located in the annexation territory. We could demand more money from the township, but the township doesn’t have any more money available.

The only permanent solution to this problem is to annex the area where the subsidy presents the biggest problem — the commercial corridor. That will stop the disincentive to own and operate a business in Sullivan. What remains of the township would then be largely non-commercial property and tackling any remaining subsidy becomes a much smaller and manageable problem.

So when you hear that annexation costs jobs, you are not being told the truth. There isn’t a single business in the annexation territory that will see a tax increase even remotely close to the salary and wages for a single full-time employee. The business seeing the largest increase didn’t even sign the remonstrance petition. For the most part, we are talking about tax increases of less than $5,000 per year. For residential properties, almost everyone is less than $500 per year.

Those of us who have remained behind in Sullivan to shoulder the load are already paying those higher taxes, and people in the annexation territory will be able to do so as well. When they threaten jobs, what they really mean is that they enjoy being subsidized by Sullivan taxpayers, and they are willing to scare you in order to keep it.

— Clint Lamb, Mayor

City of Sullivan

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