Friday, February 29, 2008


Action at the statehouse reminds us of an old good news - bad news joke. The airline pilot comes on the intercom to tell the passengers the good news. "There's a strong tail-wind and were making really good time." The bad news is that, "We're lost."

The folks at the legislature are pushing ahead on all fronts - with the suggestion that it would be a tribute to former governor Doc Bowen if a tax package could be passed in time for his birthday in February. We can only hope it would be something with which he would not be ashamed to be associated with.

All conversation - all though - all action - seems to be concentrated on determining how to get the residential taxpayers (voters) off the hook. Aside from the proposal to use referendum on "major" construction projects, little is being done about spending policies.

Concerning New Albany specifically, there is not one single proposal that any such action be preceded by a detail review of the nearly 16 years of fiscal policies which are a major contribution yo the city's financial issues. It is simply proposed that local government "reorganization" will somehow take care of us.

We believe the local problem is less "vertical" government organization than "horizontal" expansion over the last 16 years.

"We're not too tall. We're too wide."

We reiterate that the work of the county and township assessor in Floyd County - we don't suggest it has been good or bad - it has in fact been to some degree an exercise in futility.

It has become so because of the accelerated use of power by such agencies as the Redevelopment Commission which, with the full approval of our mayor and council (and unquestioning hype in the media), have decimated the property tax base as the primary source of funds for our municipal government by unrestrained use of TIF districts, abatement's and complete removal of real property from the tax base.

We have raised the question before with political and media people, and we do so again.

Is there any person in the city/county who knows precisely the assessed value of real estate not on the rolls?

Do we really know what the property tax problem is if we don't have that figure?

The "horizontal" expansion has also brought us a variety of governmental units with the power to issue debt.

It is our admittedly cynical view that these may well be an intentional effort to disguise the actual, total financial liability of the city. A reading of the annual reports of some of these bodies presents some interesting information about the relationships between these bodies.

Is there anyone who knows what the total city/county debt is?

From our point of view, the worst thing of all is that "tax reform" is under a full head of steam at the statehouse and we know of no single individual there - not a single soul - who is suggesting we slow down a bit and take a hard look at "how we got here."

The main political theme seems to be, "We have to get the residents off the hook without really limiting the spending power of government." The lack of attention to circumstances such as we have cited indicates the legislature will do nothing about the continuing giveaways and subsidies which directly undermine the tax system.

Under the intentionally mis-leading guise of economic "development, " the mis-use of the property tax system as a means of steering economic "activity" from one area to another, as opposed to its being the primary legitimate source of revenue for the municipality, will continue with the "missing" funds being replaced by unending increases in other forms of taxation.

We hope we're wrong, but we predict there will be property tax relief, probably funded by an increase in the state sales tax, with the folks at the statehouse counting on this move taking off the heat.

But it won't!

Consideration of "permanent" limits will be put off, with the proposition that we'll take a look at a constitutional amendment which actually caps levies after we determine the huge savings we get from reorganization.

And next year, they'll do it all over again.

We suppose the question then will be, "What do we re-organize this time?"