CROWN POINT | Suspense is building for Lake County property owners as officials prepare to mail this year's tax bills.
"You will be surprised," teased Mike Wieser, director of finance for the auditor's office. And not necessarily in a bad way, he said.
"An old neighbor in Highland freaked out because his assessment went up $12,000. But the tax rate in Highland came down and it ends up the guy pays only $30 more this year than last. There is a little give-and-take in the system between the tax rate and assessed value. They can act as equalizers," Wieser said.
Lake County Treasurer John Petalas said, "At my house, the tax rate is up, but my (assessed value) went down and the difference was $40. If it hadn't included a new $45 Little Calumet River assessment, my bill would have gone down $5.
Some 9,000 local owners already are appealing the assessed value on their properties in expectation of tax bills they believe will be too high.
The rest of the public should learn their tax numbers soon.
"We start mailing the bills out April 19. The due date for payment is May 10," Petalas said.
The Gateway database on the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance website indicates 21 government subdivisions experienced single-digit rises in both their average property value assessments and their tax rates.
They include Crown Point, St. John, Schneider and much of Lowell, and unincorporated areas.
Nine saw both average tax rates and assessed value drop, including Cedar Lake, Gary, Highland and Munster.
Another 19 saw their tax rates and assessed values head in different directions.
That includes Hammond, where assessed value dropped 4 percent but the tax rate rose 15 percent, and East Chicago, where values dropped 13 percent and the tax rate rose by 12 percent.
Tax rates and assessed values also headed in different directions in Whiting, Lake Station, Griffith, New Chicago, Dyer, Schererville, Merrillville and Winfield.
However, Wieser said a community's averages may not predict any one person's tax bill.
"You have neighborhood factors, the age of the building and other data that mixes into it. It's difficult to say if they are going up and down on an individual basis," he said.
It is clear more than 149,000 property owners can expect new assessments on any land they own that is drained by the Little Calumet River. They are $45 for each residential lot, $90 for agricultural parcels, $180 for commercial and $360 for industrial and public utility parcels.
The General Assembly ordered the money collected to complete flood-control work and maintain the $275 million worth of levees built over the past 25 years.
Lake Surveyor George Van Til said his office assisted the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission in identifying the lots to be charged without charging the commission more than $16,000 in user fees.
Petalas said once taxpayers receive their bills, they can make their first installments at his offices in the Lake County Government Complex, 2293 N. Main St., Crown Point, or the satellite county courthouses at 401 Broadway in Gary and 232 Russell St. in Hammond.
Those who aren't disputing their taxes can avoid lines be paying at these banks: American Savings FSB, Centier Bank, Chase Bank, Citizens Financial Bank, DeMotte State Bank, First Financial Bank, BMO Harris Bank N.A., Horizon Bank, Lake Federal Bank FSB, MainSource Bank, Peoples Bank and Tech Credit Union.