ELKHART -- The question of property taxes is a point of fear for a buyer and putting tax caps into the Indiana Constitution will give long-term relief to property owners, according to Doug Miller, owner of D.L. Miller Construction Co. Inc.
Miller spoke in favor of the constitutional question voters will be asked to decide on the Nov. 2 ballot during a press conference organized by the Hoosier Property Tax Reform Alliance Tuesday at the Builders Association of Elkhart County in Elkhart.
The alliance includes: International Union of Operation Engineers Local 150; Eli Lilly and Co.; Indiana Apartment Association; Indiana Association of Realtors; Indiana Builders Association; Indiana Manufacturers Association; Kip Tom, Tom Farms; The Foundation for Educational Choice; and Aiming Higher PAC (of Gov. Mitch Daniels).
How much property taxes will be is one of the top three questions potential buyers ask, Miller said. Through the years, he said, taxpayers have seen short-term tax relief, but the General Assembly has found a way to create a "crisis."
Tax caps limit property taxes to 1 percent of a residential assessed valuation; 2 percent on a farm or apartment property; and 3 percent on a commercial property. The caps could be the difference in whether someone is able to remain in their home, Miller said.
Caps will allow people to feel more comfortable about their tax bills and will allow companies to move families to the state and know "with accuracy what their tax bills will be," Miller said.
State Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, also a Realtor, said that since the caps create a ceiling, there's an opportunity to work to bring property taxes down. He also noted that assessments should be capped.
Culver said tax caps aren't the only thing pinching local governments. The economy is causing issues with the local option income tax and lower assessed valuations on property as well, which are affecting revenue.
In addition, local governments can cut more, just as families have. Governments can combined departments, including building departments, since building is down and there are different regulations in each department, he said.
"Government hasn't made the cuts yet that they can," Culver said.
Also, the Republican legislator said, local government can look at retirement age and benefits of employees compared to the private sector.
Meanwhile, there has been little public campaigning against the tax cap referendum. However, the Indiana Parent Teacher Association, working with a coalition of several other groups, has raised several questions about the plan.
Even as it caps property owners' property tax load, it could have other "unintended consequences" stemming from the parallel loss of income by cities, schools and other taxing units, the group warned in a statement.
"You can expect user fees, fines, penalties and probably more regulatory fees to proliferate in your daily life due to loss of the revenue," said the statement. "The statutory caps have already resulted in local units experiencing decreases of millions of dollars for schools, libraries and other services."
The Association of Indiana Counties and the Indiana Library Federation joined the PTA in crafting the statement.
Truth reporter Tim Vandenack contributed to this story.
Here's the constitutional question Indiana voters will be asked to vote on Nov. 2:
"SHALL PROPERTY TAXES BE LIMITED FOR ALL CLASSES OF PROPERTY by amending the Constitution of the State of Indiana to do the following: (1) Limit a taxpayer's annual property tax bill to the following percentages of gross assessed value: (A) 1% for an owner-occupied primary residence (homestead); (B) 2% for residential property, other than an owner-occupied primary residence, including apartments; (C) 2% for agricultural land; (D) 3% for other real property; and (E) 3% for personal property. The above percentages exclude any property taxes imposed after being approved by the voters in a referendum. (2) Specify that the General Assembly may grant a property tax exemption in the form of a deduction or credit and exempt a mobile home used as a primary residence to the same extent as real property?"