VALPARAISO | City and Center Township residents are about to get property tax bills showing the increase after passage of two school referendums approved last year.
By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters in May approved property tax increases for operating and building projects at Valparaiso Community Schools.
The operating referendum asked voters to raise nearly $31 million over seven years to support teacher salaries and benefits. The project referendum was for a $148 million facilities plan to include a new elementary school, renovating Valparaiso High School and other buildings.
Prior to the vote, debate revolved around issues involving the difference between two online tax calculators.
The state's Department of Local Government Finance calculator took the gross assessed value and calculated the impact of an increase of 64 cents per $100. Valparaiso school officials said it didn't take into account the school has a debt service tax rate on existing outstanding bonds.
A homeowner in the city with an assessed value of $150,000 paid about $1,500 in property taxes in 2015, Porter County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said. Because of the referendums, the amount in 2016 is about $1,764. That figure includes homestead and mortgage deductions and to property taxes only and not other assessments or charges that may appear on bills.
Urbanik said during the debate that based on the school's materials the 64 cent rate is the maximum rate needed for the construction bond issue beginning in 2026. According to the schools, it's based on the 2014 assessed value.
Urbanik said then that a 58 cent rate was the revised maximum rate the school was projecting due in part to changes in assessed value. A 17 cent rate was what schools projected they needed for the first year of the construction project.
Urbanik said both calculators applied homestead deductions but neither accounted for the homestead credit.
According to the ballot, about 85 cents on $100 per assessed value was what taxpayers were told was the most they might have to pay.
The actual tax rate according to Urbanik is about 44 cents.
The operating referendum on the ballot at 20 cents ended up being just that. The controlled project referendum was on the ballot at the 64 cent rate, ended up at 23 cents.
"If people say now this is more than they expected to pay they might be going back to that (17 cents) estimate," Urbanik said.
Urbanik said her office anticipates a lot of taxpayers asking questions on why their tax bill went up. The two issues in the city are the homeowner's assessed value may have gone up in addition to the school referendums. In Center Township a new stormwater fee is being tacked on -- new for most of unincorporated Porter County.