CROWN POINT | Lake County Assessor Jolie A. Covaciu said she has a tip that could save some taxpayers hundreds of dollars.
"It may be advantageous for a residential property owner to combine multiple contiguous properties," she said Monday.
She cites the example of a Lowell property that in 2013 sat on two separate lots taxed a combined $691.36. It was combined into one parcel and, this year, its taxes are $493.72.
"Another example is of a home in Whiting had paid a total of $1,053.03 on their 2013 bill and now pays $869.04 on their 2014 tax bill," she said.
She said the secret is in how the state's system of homestead exemptions and property fees works.
The homestead standard deduction, the largest tax break most people qualify for, reduces the taxable assessed value of a home by up to $45,000 and sets an upper limit to the taxes at around 1 percent of its assessed value.
However, the state only allows one deduction per individual or married couple. That restriction becomes important if a home sits on more than one parcel, since the homestead rate would only apply to one of the parcels. The others are taxed at a higher amount as if no home existed on them.
Covaciu said state and local government also apply flat fees on each parcel to pay for water pollution and storm drainage work. The more parcels an individual or couple owns, the more fees they are charged.
"In Cedar Lake, you have 25-foot lots. My house sits on four lots. I combined all of mine 15 years ago," she said. "If I hadn't done that, I would have all those lots paying separate taxes and fees."
She said anyone with questions about combining parcels should contact her office at the Lake County Government Complex in Crown Point or their local township assessor's office in Center, Hobart, Calumet, St. John and Ross townships.
The request will be processed for 2015, pay 2016, tax period. The combination will not be complete if there are overdue taxes, ownership documents don't match or if parcels are not contiguous or lie in different sections of a township.