LaPorte County reaches settlement in assessment case

2013-02-06T18:30:00Z 2013-02-06T18:46:14Z LaPorte County reaches settlement in assessment caseStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 06, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

LAPORTE | A settlement has been reached with the contractor who performed the reassessment in LaPorte County that resulted in millions of dollars in uncollected tax revenue.

The LaPorte County commissioners Wednesday voted in favor of a settlement agreement with the Nexus Group for $450,000.

Originally, the Zionsville-based property tax consulting firm sought more than $900,000 for work in assessing commercial and industrial properties that went unpaid.

That work was in addition to the hotly contested residential property tax reassessment work that Nexus was compensated for by the county.

LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman said the case was fast approaching trial but that was averted by a deal struck during a recent mediation session between the two sides.

"Candidly, there was not any evidence that would support the prior county officials' claims that Nexus had not performed pursuant to contract and had not delivered a product pursuant to contract," said Friedman.

Attorney for the Nexus Group, Mark GiaQuinta, of Fort Wayne, said the 2006 reassessment figures presented by his client after numerous challenges turned out to be accurate.

GiaQuinta said there was a "perfect storm" of factors that for several years kept the property tax reassessment from officially entering the books.

Initially, he said, there was the challenge by lakefront area property owners accustomed to low assessments shocked after the change to a fair market value system drastically increased their taxable values.

GiaQuinta said the switch to a fair market value system was complicated and on two separate occasions the state ordered a review of the reassessments.

"Incompetency" and dirty politics at the state level were other factors cited by GiaQuinta in the reassessment delays that resulted in official tax bills not going out for several years.

Accurate bills from 2006 started being distributed last year, and the county is expected to be caught up with the billing by the end of this year.

In the meantime, local governments and schools had to pay millions of dollars in interest on loans taken to operate because of the delays in receiving full tax revenues.

"It's time to put this thing behind us so we can focus on the future," said LaPorte County Commissioner Vidya Kora.

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