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Changes to poor relief bill could boost Griffith’s chances to leave Calumet Township

Slager

Slager

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Updated: April 28, 2013 6:32AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Griffith’s chance to secede from Calumet Township is back.

A recent amendment to the bill the town’s pinned its hopes on would require Calumet Township to try to reduce the amount of its poor relief tax collection to less than 12 times the state average. If the township fails to address the high tax rate, the state will step in, and the towns can choose to leave the township.

The bill has seen a number of changes since reaching the Senate. Originally it allowed a town to leave if the township was at 15 times the state average, then it was amended to require the state to step in if the poor relief tax collection was more than 10 times the state average, but did not allow a town to join a bordering township.

Now the bill has both options, and gives the township a year to get the tax rate below 12 times the state average. The town needs to also complete a petition requirement of 30 percent of voters agreeing to leave and find a new township to adopt them.

“We determined that the bill when it was amended did not provide any relief to anyone,” said State Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville. “I think what we’ve come up with is a better bill than what we started with.”

Griffith Town Council President Glen Gaby said the town is used to paying the high costs of township tax relief, where more than half of the funds, about $2.8 million, go to administrative costs, while $2.1 million is actually used for collection. He adds that while the township generates the money from the community, no resident from Griffith has been able to serve on the township board to influence the tax rates.

“We’re the poster child of taxation without representation,” Gaby said.

During the hearing, Calumet Township Mary Elgin said the township has been reducing costs. In 2011, Griffith paid $3 million in property Taxes, while in 2012, it paid $1.7 million. The township has reduced employees from 232 to 80, and cut back on other administration expenses.

The township is only required to reduce its costs, said State Sen. Brandt Hershman, who offered the amendments, but if the township can’t make the necessary cuts, then it will face repercussions.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said she would have supported the bill if it allowed for a gradual reduction of poor relief funds, but the changes would require too much taken out of poor relief for the township.

“Even if you took it all out of the administration costs,” Rogers said, “the amount they want the township to cut would still hurt the amount of dollars going to poor relief.”

She also disagrees with a town having the ability to leave a township.

The bill passed through the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy committee 9-2.



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