Washington Township’s $15 million-dollar bond received a rather gratuitous write up in
the local “newspaper” this week. The article I’m referring to quotes Danielle Carey Tolan, the Washington Township Trustee, “But really, I don’t see $4 a year being a burden on someone.” Sure, a knee-jerk reaction to such a statement might be, “It’s only $4,” which has caused this writer to ask, “Exactly who is paying $4, Danielle?”
I sat down with an employee of the Hamilton County Auditors office this week in an effort to get the facts straight. It’s pretty complicated, so it comes as no surprise that not even the Trustee can explain the tax burden on individual homes. But, if you believe you’re only going to pay $4…it’s total balderdash, baby!
The calculations provided to the public, published by the law offices that will issue the bond, were accurate at one time, but too old to use today. A suggested threshold limit of $111,000 (Gross Assessed Value in the City limit) and $143,000 (unincorporated area) failed to include the .20/$100 we are all paying on one of two school referendums. The correct threshold limits provided by the auditor’s office are $123,000 and $176,000 respectively. What’s that mean? If you live in the City of Westfield and your AV is $123,000 or lower, you’re not hitting the 1% tax cap. Likewise, if you live in the unincorporated Township, you don’t hit the cap until your AV is $176,000. In either situation, YOU will be paying out of pocket for this tax levy.
Obviously, it would be impossible to calculate the individual impact on every home, but I can give you an example that might resonate. Let’s say you have 2.98 acres outside of the city limit and your assessed value for 2018 (payable in 2019) is: $185,000. (It was 178,300 and you were just $11.44 away from hitting the tax cap, but your AV is on the rise and you didn’t know how hard the second referendum was going to hit you. You’re not going to hit the tax cap, so your one of the “lucky” ones, who’ll get to pay out of pocket.) The current township tax rate for this home is: 2.3453 (.023453). You add in the new rate, published as .0136 (for just $5.7 million of this $15 million-dollar bond) making the new district tax rate=2.3589. This particular homeowner has a homestead deduction as well as a mortgage deduction, so the net assessed rate or NAV is $83,645.00. They also own out-buildings and excess acreage totaling $53,200 which will be taxed at the same rate. This person, who happens to be on the township board and voted in favor of this levy, is going to pay $19.42 per year. Doesn’t sound like $4; does it? Think about this, once the full $15,000,000 is bonded with interest and more real estate and issuance fees, let’s just triple the original rate (because even Mrs. Carey-Tolan said she was only using about a third of the money in the first series) …that same homeowner will be paying about $58.62 a year. A lot further away from that $4 figure, right? Now just to throw some salt in the wound, think about paying that for twenty years! That’s $1,165.40 and by the way, it’s Danyele Easterhaus’ property. She’s one of the current Township Board members and on your ballot. Because of her lack of understanding and willingness to pass this bond just ten minutes after the public hearing, she didn’t earn my vote.
I did my own home too and will share that rate. I’ll pay about $58.27 per year at full issuance; still not $4, but I haven’t been in favor of this song and dance from the beginning.
Perhaps you’ve also heard that the commercial businesses (3% tax cap rate) are going to swoop in to save the day on this? Nope, not going to happen because any commercial business inside a TIF, isn’t included in the Township’s Certified 2019 Net Assessed Valuation. (Once again, confirmed at the auditor’s office.) Daggone TIFs get us every time.
Now that I’ve bored you with the real numbers, think about things like eminent domain, bad governance, elitism, lack of transparency, ethics and understanding. Should the Township Trustee and the Board be in the business of land acquisition? To date, the Washington Township parks have been donated. Fall Creek Township was able to purchase a park with excess money in its Township coffers, but they certainly didn’t need to bond $15,000,000 to do it. As a matter of fact, it’s difficult to find any example of any Township borrowing this kind of money. Only four other townships even carry debt, so this my friends, is way out of the ordinary!
This decision is so far out there, the Board of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County is proudly supporting the remonstrance petition that is now available for signing. The first step in the process is to gather more than 500 signatures from either registered voters or property owners in Washington Township. You have the rare opportunity to say no to higher taxes by signing the petition. More taxes are on the way (in the form of the 911 tax and talk of a wheel tax) so it seems unlikely we will be able to do anything about it as a community, but this particular tax can be stopped. Please join us and say no by signing the petition for an unnecessary tax levy. For more information on where to sign, please contact the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County at: firstname.lastname@example.org