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They, county official will negotiate; jobs may still vanish
TELL CITY - Township trustee-assessors who lost part of their duties at the first of the year will negotiate with County Assessor Mendy Ward to determine how they'll perform the remainder of their duties and how much money they'll receive.
As The News reported Jan. 31, Ward told the county council Jan. 24 a law enacted in 2005 required township assessors who took office in January 2007 to attain the state's Level 1 assessment certifications by the end of that year. They would have been required to attain Level 2 certifications by the end of this year.
All seven of Perry County's township assessors assumed their offices in 2007, after winning election or re-election the preceding November, and only Troy Township Assessor Brenda Powers earned the certification. Under the law, the duties of those who didn't reverted to the county assessor's office Jan. 1 this year. Ward asked the council to signal their intent to transfer funding designated for the trustee-assessors to her office. She agreed to seek two part-time people to take on the additional duties, to be paid from the $18,237 she hoped the council would transfer to her budget at their latest meeting.
No certification is necessary to assess personal property, Union Township Trustee-Assessor Betty Labhart told the council Thursday.
The trustees retained their responsibility to assess personal property, Council President Pete Franzman said, but by mid-March, when the current General Assembly session ends, they'll know whether their jobs have been abolished completely.
The News reported Jan. 17 an Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform recommended the elimination of the township level of government. Its members feel the duties carried out at that level can easily be transferred to county government.
That opinion was disputed by local township officials, who feel county officials won't have the insight into their communities necessary to ensure all improvements to real property are recorded, resulting in missed tax revenues.
Several bills addressing the township officials' duties have been removed from consideration, according to a Web site where General Assembly actions are posted.
Changes to that level of government have been incorporated into House Bill 1001, which seeks to outline the state budget.
Under the version of that bill available Friday morning, county commissioners could initiate a referendum on whether the township-assessors' duties should be transferred to the county assessor or be transferred back to the township officials. It also provides that a referendum for the transfer of assessing duties must be on a township-by-township basis.
County Auditor Connie Berger said after the council meeting ended the township assessors could regain their real-property assessment duties by choosing to become certified. Several had said for the Jan. 17 story the necessary training would have meant a week away from homes and jobs, a commitment they couldn't afford to make.
The county council will next meet March 27, after the legislative session ends.
"If the law doesn't abolish your offices, we need to come to an agreement" about dividing duties for assessing real and personal property, Franzman said. Labhart and the other trustees present - Becky Hagedorn, Anderson Township; Mae Keller, Tobin Township; and Jeff Paulin, Clark Township - agreed to try.