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Tax sale legislation worries Lake County officials

Updated: January 19, 2013 6:50PM



CROWN POINT — Lake County officials say they strongly oppose a bill moving through the Indiana General Assembly that would raise the county’s cost of conducting treasurer tax sales by so much it would not be worth conducting them.

They also plan to keep their eyes on another bill establishing a voluntary land bank program for changes that may affect the county’s ability to conduct tax sales. In its current form, however, this bill has no impact on the county.

In the first measure, House Bill 1116, assigned to the Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform, would require the county to conduct a title search to identify all mortgagees of all properties it plans to put up for the treasurer’s property tax sale, said Jim Hughes, chairman of SRI Inc. of Indianapolis, the county’s legislative adviser.

In 2012 the county certified almost 20,000 properties for sale, officials said. At a cost of about $125 per title search that would mean the sales would cost an additional $2.7 million a year.

Hughes said his company is advising 78 of the state’s 92 counties on the bill and so far all are “violently opposed” to the legislation. Even smaller counties with fewer abandoned properties would find the additional cost prohibitive, he said. In a smaller county, $200,000 in added costs would be significant.

Lake County Auditor Peggy Katona said if the bill is passed it would become cost prohibitive for the county to conduct tax sales and some people might use that as an opportunity to stop paying their taxes since the county will lose its leverage to force payment.

“That’s what’s going to happen,” Katona said.

The second piece of legislation, House Bill 3117, has the potential to impact tax sales as well, but does not do so in its current form.

The measure calls for establishing land banks, a municipal corporation through which counties, cities and towns could funnel tax sale certificates for abandoned and dilapidated properties that could then be used in redevelopment efforts, Hughes said.

County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen Jr., D-1st, said the land bank plan would be a redundancy in Lake County, where redevelopment commissions already serve that function.

“You have a red state that’s says it wants to reduce government. Is that reducing government or really enlarging it?” Allen said.



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