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VALPARAISO | Union locals, gun clubs, art groups and a retirement community are among 22 local properties where tax exemptions are at risk as part of a sweeping crackdown triggered by two recent state rulings.

Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder secured approval late Thursday morning from the Porter County Tax Assessment Board of Appeals to require the owners of each of the targeted properties to show why they should continue receiving the tax breaks.

Each of the properties were flagged by the assessor's office as having a possible defect in its original application, Snyder said. The list was compiled in the wake of rulings by the Indiana Board of Tax Review denying tax exemptions to the United Steelworkers Local 6787 in Portage and the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce.

The assessor is responsible for making sure various classes of taxpayers are treated the same, which does not appear to be the case, said Christopher Buckley, who represents the assessor's office and PTBOA.

The PTBOA will host a hearing with each group  where representatives will have to prove how they qualify for the tax breaks under the law, he said.

The list of challenged properties could grow as more tips come in from the public and/or new exemption applications are filed, Snyder said.

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There are nearly 7,000 parcels countywide that are exempt from paying property taxes, according to a recent Times report.

The list now includes properties owned by Art Barn School of Art, Artists & Craftsmen of Porter County, Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Fort Tassinong Muzzleloaders, Ironworkers Inc., Laborers Local 81 Building Corp., Local 12775 USWA Building Corp., USWA Local 6103 Holding Co., Midwestern Saddle & Bridle Association, Navajo Saddle Club Corp., North Porter County Conservation Club, Pines Village Retirement Communities, Porter County Conservation Club, Sheetmetal Workers Local 20, Shellbourne Inc., Valparaiso Machinists Inc., Valparaiso Pistol & Rifle Club, Northwest Indiana Forum Foundation and Northwest Indiana Forum.

The Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce is in the same position of having to defend the tax exemption it has on its building at 162 West Lincolnway, but has taken the approach of applying for a new exemption, Snyder said.

The chamber's exemption is at risk because the state determined the Portage chamber was not entitled to the exemption it was seeking for its building at 2642 Eleanor St. The Portage chamber failed to show that more than half of the building and/or its operations are dedicated to charitable purposes, according to the tax board.

Valparaiso Chamber President Rex Richards has told The Times the chamber was granted the exemption when it purchased its building a decade ago because it provides a service to the community by sharing the space at a discounted rate rate with government and non-profit entities.

Richards attended Thursday's PTBOA meeting and said nothing more than to ask the board for an audio recording of the meeting for its legal counsel.

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