Tag Archives: calumet township

Abandoned Homes or Abandoned Homeowners?

1 Nov

by Ken Davidson

 

Gary IndianaThe Gazette reported on the IHCDA plan to assist Gary and other Cities in the elimination of abandoned homes earlier in the week. You can see that story Here in case you missed it. This is the second in a series of articles examining what got Gary to the point that there are an estimated ten thousand abandoned and vacant homes throughout the city.  Most homes in Lake County are assessed by the County Assessor.  In Calumet Township, that is not the case.  As discussed below, the office of Calumet Township Assessor Jackie Collins is responsible for assessing the values of homes in Griffith, Gary and parts of unincorporated Lake County.

The Mayor attributes the problems in Gary, in part, to the foreclosure crisis. The foreclosure crisis is a national problem that plagues nearly every urban area in the country. Gary, however, was hit less hard by the foreclosure crisis than any other city for two reasons. First, there was never a real estate bubble in Gary, Indiana. There was not a time when homeowners refinanced their homes and took large amounts of cash out because the values never rose rapidly. Second, Gary has a higher rate of homeowners with no mortgage than any other city in Lake County and probably the state.  State Senator Earline Rogers made no  comments regarding the cause of the crisis other than to refer to Indianapolis as the “Hoosier Holyland” which suggested to me that she blamed downstate lawmakers for the problems.

The Mayor and Senator Earline Rogers fail to mention the other likely reasons for the number of abandoned and vacant homes in Gary. We examined the lack of city services in a prior article (you can read that Here ). Lets talk about the taxation issues and how they cause homeowners to flee the city.

First, lets understand how properties are assessed in Indiana. The general assembly passed a law that allowed residents in certain townships to choose to keep or eliminate office of the township assessor. This was done by a referendum in 2008. The overwhelming majority of townships in Indiana who were given the choice eliminated the office of township assessor and county assessors are now performing the duties of assessing those areas in a more efficient manner. The voters of Calumet Township chose to keep their township assessor. That office is currently held by Jackie Collins.

This is the office that has failed to keep the Gary Housing and City of Gary properties off the tax sale rolls even when notified that the parcels are owned by a government agency. The City is now spending tens of thousands of dollars on private attorneys to retrieve hundreds of units that were erroneously taxed and sold. The same office that allegedly used public funds to send out flyers telling Gary residents that they may lose tax credits (statutory tax credits which are provided by the State of Indiana) if they did not vote to keep the office open. And this is the office that is responsible for determining the fair market value of land, buildings and personal property for all of Calumet Township.

Ralston Street was mentioned as one of the streets that received little in the way of City services at the IHCDA meeting, so I thought I would take a look at the tax values on Ralston. If we start at the corner of 24th and Ralston is one of those evil out of town landowners that was discussed by the politicians at the meeting. The home is assessed at $148,900. With a Gary Sanitary District Fee of $60 and a Little Calumet River Basin fee of $45, the total annual tax bill is $5,830.00.

Across the street, still at the corner of 24th and Ralston is an owner occupied home. It is assessed at $58,000 and has a homestead deduction (no mortgage deduction by the way). The total tax was $2008 last year but dropped to about $931.00 this year. There are late fees of $432.17 on a delinquency of about $1100.00 In order to avoid tax sale and stay in this home, the taxpayer had to pay $2067 in the first installment this year. The second installment of taxes due now is $443.39.

As you continue down the block, you finally get to some properties that seem to be properly assessed. INS Incorporated owns a home at the end of Ralston Street that is assessed at $12,000. There are others that show taxes in the range of $700 last year. No explanation as to why one homeowner, on the same block, paid nearly 3 times the tax last year and then was hit with another $432 in penalties.

The wild fluctuations in values from year to year and similar properties together with ever increasing fees have caused many homes in Gary to go to the tax sale. Even at the tax sale many homes remain unsold even for the amount of the delinquent tax. The market is that bad in Gary. People are not even buying homes for $2,000; yet residents are being charged that much and more for one year’s worth of taxes.

Mary Elgin’s Township Mafia

20 Oct

Submitted by
Gary Free-Press

What more does one need to see through the BS? Her agency is supposed to be doing one thing and one thing only: providing relief to the poor and those in need in emergencies. Her agency is NOT supposed to be a virtual slush fund from which her cronies and friends gorge themselves at the public trough.

There can be no better example of local government gone wild. An annual review of the legal advertisement that lists all of the expenditures of her agency reads like an Ancestry.com report of all of the political families in the city. I never knew we had so many “businesses” in Gary. It seems that just about everyone you can think of has created a business for the sole purpose of providing some sort of “service” to the Township.

But the reality is much different than this. Last year, nearly 70% of the money the Township received went towards administration costs. This is outrageous; even by Gary terms. Some of this may be explained by her choice in accountants. What would possess someone to select the exact same accountant that was the accountant for the notoriously failed GUEA organization to do their books? One would think that once it was discovered that an accountant was so asleep at the wheel that he missed everything disappearing from GUEA, that he would be banned from the profession altogether; and certainly not be Elgin’s first choice for fiscal advice and professional accounting services. But then again, maybe it is his GUEA experience that influenced her choice. If I were doling out money to all of my friends and cronies, I would want an accountant that had a track record of being blind, deaf, and dumb also.

And furthermore, the Township apparently plans to not comply with the requirements of the State legislation, HB 1585, that allows Griffith to secede from Calumet Township and either form a new township or join another existing township, as they passed the same budget as they did last year. The budget they just passed is not in compliance with the requirements of the legislation.

Finally, the curtain that this outmoded organization has been hiding behind for decades, is being pulled open. What has been exposed is an organization rife with graft, cronyism, political favoritism, and is a poster child for fiscal waste.

It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is a mafia masquerading as an organization to help the poor. And Mary Elgin is the current head of this organization. Can’t she see the problems? Or is it that she doesn’t want to see its problems?

Any high school freshman could recognize the problems. Why can’t her ace accountant, Curtis Whittaker see them?

If the State launched an investigation into the Township which would include a full forensic audit, the notorious GUEA organization’s failures and foibles would be eclipsed by the decades-long period during which this agency has been wasting and misappropriating money. Lots and lots of money!