Monroe County could see rise in property taxes next year

Property taxes might be on the rise in Monroe County, according to Monroe County auditor Steve Saulter.

Saulter said the county plans to file an excess levy appeal, essentially asking the state’s permission to temporarily raise property taxes.

The potential tax increase is caused by two separate issues, Saulter said.

One involves a 2012 assessment error of nonprofits. The other concerns the settlement Monroe County reached with the Fields, an apartment complex located on South Fenbrook Lane in Bloomington.

The settlement led to a $732,840 tax refund to the apartment complex.

“We obviously didn’t have the 700,000 (dollars),” Saulter said. “We had to move money from the rainy day fund to cover that. I guess you could call it a shock since it sort of came out of left field.”

About seven years ago, the Fields appealed the assessment made by Monroe County assessor Judy Sharp, who assessed the value of property at $37 million.

The Fields apartment complex disagreed with Sharp’s evaluation and filed an appeal that eventually went to the state courts.

“It’s extremely high,” Saulter said. “The county will give refunds but nothing to the magnitude of 735,000 (dollars).”

This past winter, Monroe ?County decided on a settlement with the Fields apartment complex, which meant the county needed to pay more than $700,000 in back taxes.

Saulter said, in order to recoup lost revenue from the settlement, Monroe County needs to raise taxes.

First, though, it needs the permission of the state by applying for an excess levy appeal with the Department of Local Government Finance, a state organization that oversees taxes made by counties, cities and townships or taxing units in Indiana.

Monroe County is seeking an excess levy appeal of $241,881, about $133,227 which was caused by the settlement with the Fields apartment complex.

The appeals are then reviewed by the DLGF, where they can either grant permission or deny permission to Monroe County to raise taxes.

Saulter explained that, in Monroe County, applying for excess levy appeals is not an annual ?occurrence.

“It’s not as common in the sense that you see this done year after year ,” Saulter said.

The loss of revenue from the settlement with the Fields complex did not only cost Monroe County.

The loss also cost Bloomington, the Monroe County Community School Corporation and the Monroe County Public Library, all of which have applied or plan to apply for a separate excess levy appeal.

After years of an appeal battle in the state courts with the Fields apartment complex, Monroe County decided to settle.

“We finally said enough is enough, settled, cut our losses because we probably would still be out here waiting for an answer,” Sharp said.

Sharp said assessment appeals often take years to decide.

The county, in this case, settled with the Fields apartment complex in order to avoid potentially losing even more money in a court decision.

As of now, it is unclear how much the potential tax increase will affect Monroe County ?residents.

Saulter said if the county’s excess levy appeal were to be approved, property taxes in Monroe County would temporarily increase for 2015.

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