The Governor has announced his intent to have the property values in Marion County reassessed. I haven’t found where the Governor himself has this power, but do see where the Department of Local Government Finance has such authority (thanks to a commenter over at Advance Indiana.) According to a DLGF press release:
Daniels decided to order the Marion County reassessment after receiving a recommendation from Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave. The DLGF and the stateâ€™s government efficiency group have been poring through parcel data for the county in recent days. Musgrave outlined findings that prompted her recommendation in a memo to the governor. For example, assessed value for nearly three-fourths (16,000 of 22,100) of commercial and industrial parcels in Marion County did not change at all over a six-year period.
The state will take charge of the commercial and industrial reassessment in Marion County using professional assessment assistance and instruct county officials to do the residential work. Marion County property taxpayers will receive bills with a new 2007 amount promptly after the reassessment is completed and tax rates certified, a process that is expected to take six to eight months.
To begin the formal process of initiating a Marion County reassessment, the DLGF has issued a resolution that calls for a public hearing in 10 days. Following the public hearing, DLGF will issue an order to reassess.
According to another DLGF press release, Cheryl Musgrave took office as Commissioner on July 16 and has held office for all of 2 days. And, it’s a little disturbing to me that the hearing is to be a mere formality. The process for DLGF to take charge of a reassessment is set forth in
Reassessment resolution of department of local government finance; hearing; reassessment order
Sec. 9. In order to maintain a just and equitable valuation of real property, the department of local government finance may adopt a resolution declaring its belief that it is necessary to reassess all or a portion of the real property located within this state. If the department of local government finance adopts a reassessment resolution and if either a township or a larger area is involved, the department shall hold a hearing concerning the necessity for the reassessment at the courthouse of the county in which the property is located. The department of local government finance shall give notice of the time and place of the hearing in the manner provided in section 10 of this chapter. After the hearing, or if the area involved is less than a township, after the adoption of the resolution of the department of local government finance, the department may order any reassessment it deems necessary. The order shall specify the time within which the reassessment must be completed and the date the reassessment will become effective.
Notice that the Department is supposed to conduct a hearing first and make its order second. The Governor has apparently made the decision for the DLGF. This is backward from the way IC 4-22-5-1 says things are supposed to run:
Sec. 1. Where under the provisions of any statute, the department of local government finance . . . is required to conduct a hearing, the commissioner [may appoint hearing officers, if done in writing]. In the discharge of their duties, the hearing officers shall have all the powers to investigate and to require evidence granted to the department[.] The department . . .may conduct any number of hearings contemporaneously through different hearing officers. At the conclusion of a hearing, the hearing officer shall make a written report thereof. After receipt of the report the department . . . may take further evidence or hold further hearings. The decisions of the department . . . shall be based upon the report, additional evidence, and records as the department . . . deems pertinent.
Odd that the Governor didn’t agonize over whether he had the authority to order reassessment without a prior hearing of the DLGF the way he agonized over whether he had the authority to take action on fuel taxes.
The reassessment of Marion County may not be a bad thing, but the process is important. This is a democratic government we’re running, warts and all. Laws mean things — even if the Governor chooses to ignore them, such as when he suspended the bar closing time because Daylight Saving Time made it inconvenient or when he intervened in opposition to St. Joseph County’s request to move to Central Time despite the law requiring him to support such a request.