Gary and East Chicago's declining tax rates still tower over others

2013-03-29T18:00:00Z 2013-03-30T22:29:40Z Gary and East Chicago's declining tax rates still tower over othersBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
March 29, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County remains the home of the highest tax rates in the state.

Residents and property owners of Gary and East Chicago can expect to be taxed at the rate of $5.80 per $100 assessed value. Much of Gary remains at $6 per $100 assessed value or higher.

That is well above the median tax rate for the entire state, which was $1.88 per $100 assessed value last year, according to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance website.

The city officials can be cheered by the fact their stratospheric tax rates declined from last year.

Most of Gary dropped 3 percent and East Chicago saw a 12 percent drop in its citywide property tax rate.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said, "Since I've taken office in October 2010 we've cut the budget by $9 million." He said the city has reduced its payroll by 100 through layoffs and employee buyouts, including 15 in the city Police Department.

He said replacing city-run ambulances by a private vendor for emergency medical services saved $1.4 million alone, and he plans more future cuts to get the city off its past reliance on using casino-based revenue to balance its operational budget.

"We used to depend on $13 million in gaming funds. Now we only use $3 million, and between now and next year that will be zero," he said.

He said a recent attempt by the General Assembly to reduce local government's share of casino money was a wake-up call for him. "It's an unstable revenue source," he said.

Some 35 of Lake's 49 taxing units experienced rate hikes, although most of the changes were small.

Hammond's latest tax rate or $4.74 cents, although significantly below its neighbors, is 15 percent higher than last year.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said taxpayers should see no difference in their bills this year because the vast majority already are under the protection of the tax caps — the constitutional limit to the amount of money that can be extracted from an individual parcel of real estate each year.

"This doesn't cost taxpayers any more. They are still capped. I and the City Council have kept our tax rate artificially higher than other governments to avoid laying off Hammond police officers," he said.

Griffith Town Councilman Rick Ryfa said most of his community experienced a 2 percent rise in its tax rate. He said that is canceled out by a drop in assessed value, so tax bills should remain unchanged.

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