What is a budget, tax levy, and tax rate?
Budget: The budget is the amount of appropriations a taxing body is authorized to spend in the budget year. The total budget for a fund is the sum of the individual appropriations to be made from the fund for items such as salaries, supplies, and services and charges.
Tax Levy: The property tax levy is the amount of money that a taxing body requires to be collected through the property tax system in order to provide sufficient funding for the budget.
Tax Rate: The tax rate is the rate that must be charged against the taxing body’s assessed valuation in order to generate the property tax levy. The tax rate is computed by dividing the taxing body’s property tax levy by the taxing unit’s assessed value. The tax rate is expressed in terms of “dollars per $100 of assessed value.”
What is the public hearing? Can I voice my concerns at the public hearing?
State law requires each local unit (county, city, town, school, library, etc.) to conduct a public hearing before adopting its proposed budgets, tax rates, and tax levies. This takes place in the Fall. For most local units, the public hearing must be held at least ten days before the meeting at which the unit adopts its annual budgets, tax rates, and tax levies. The hearing must be properly advertised; budget hearing advertisements are available here: http://www.budgetnotices.in.gov/.
The public hearing is an opportunity for taxpayers to appear before the unit officers and ask questions or offer comments. As a taxpayer, you have the right to provide public comment on the proposed budgets, tax rates, and tax levies.
What if I’m unhappy with a unit’s proposed budgets, tax rates, or tax levies after the public hearing?
Ten or more taxpayers may object to a budget, tax rate, or tax levy of a unit by filing an objection petition with the unit officers not more than seven days after the public hearing.
There is no specific form or format for this petition. Taxpayers can draft their own petition, but it must specifically identify the provisions of the budget, tax rate, and tax levy to which the taxpayers object.
If a petition is properly and timely filed, the unit officers are required to adopt with its budget a finding concerning the objections in the petition and any comments presented at the hearing. If the unit fails to adopt findings as required by law, the unit is in jeopardy of having its budgets, tax rates, and tax levies remain the same as the previous year. However, the unit is not legally required to change its proposed budgets, tax rates, or tax levies in response to the objection petition.
Who can I appeal to if I am still unhappy with my unit?
A taxpayer may request a public hearing on a local unit’s proposed budgets, tax rates, or tax levies by the Department of Local Government Finance by filing a written request with the county auditor (of the county where the unit is located) or directly with the Department in either a paper or electronic format. If applicable, the county auditor must forward the request to the Department within two business days of receipt. The Department must hold the hearing in the county where the unit is located and give notice in the appropriate newspaper. However, the Department is not required to hold a public hearing unless it receives the taxpayer’s request before November 3.
This hearing is an opportunity for taxpayers to share their opinions concerning a unit’s proposed budgets, tax rates, or tax levies. Although the Department is sensitive to procedural defects in a unit’s compliance with budget notice and adoption requirements, state law does not give the Department authority to second-guess a unit’s fiscal policy decisions. Thus, the Department will not change a unit’s proposed budget, tax rate, or tax levy simply because taxpayers allege the budget, tax rate, or tax levy is unwise or unreasonably high. Taxpayers are encouraged to engage their locally-elected officials directly with concerns about those officials’ fiscal policies or philosophies.
Who can I contact if I believe a unit is not compliant with public access requirements?
Luke Britt is Indiana’s Public Access Counselor and he can be contacted at (317) 234-0906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to request a public hearing, where should I submit my request?
Questions or budget hearing requests may be directed via mail, fax, or e-mail to:
Director of Communications
100 N. Senate, N-1058B | Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 234-4376 | Toll Free: (888) 739-9826 | Fax: (317) 974-1629