Residents from Fillmore and the surrounding area met Wednesday night at the Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department to organize and sign petitions objecting to the county's property tax assessment.
Over 70 people filed into the firehouse to sign petitions to do away with the property tax; consolidate Putnam County school administrations into one; do away with property taxes for seniors over age 65; limit taxpayer property tax monies to the school system to 50 percent; and freeze the property tax now to last year's rate plus a one percent sales tax until a permanent fix can be made
The group organizers were three strangers who read articles or saw stories about one another on the news. Doris Johnson, Bette Bertram and Kenneth Gibson got together and organized last night's meeting. They plan to set up similar meetings in Roachdale, Bainbridge, Russellville and Greencastle.
"Our American dream has turned into a nightmare and we want something done about it," declared Johnson. "We are not going to stop until we get some relief.
"We need you to talk to your neighbors and encourage them to write and call our representatives and senators. Tell them you aren't going to stand for it any more."
Organizers called for the government to find new ways of creating revenue and doing away with the property tax assessment. Some states have increased sales tax which replaces the property tax assessment, Bertram told the audience.
Applause broke out from the audience several times during the meeting as the group's organizers encouraged the attendees to vote out the current elected officials.
"Start at the bottom with the next election and get a whole new bunch from the county level to the state to the federal level. They are sucking us dry and they need to go," claimed Gibson.
Members of the audience also called for changes in the South Putnam Community School Corporation.
Objections were made about tax payers having to pay school board members and prior superintendents' health insurance and pensions.
One audience member asked why the school corporation was paying a prior superintendents $50,000 a year pension plus health insurance.
"South Putnam schools are a mess. They are millions of dollars in debt and yet they are paying a past superintendent who is now working in Illinois a pension and health insurance," they claimed.
Group organizers encouraged the audience to start going to school board meetings and asking questions about where money is being spent.
"It's an open pocket book down there," shouted another audience member. "We are paying for golf and tennis and everything else. They need to quit spending."
The group encouraged people to look for good candidates to replace the current board members and to attend an upcoming special board meeting at South Putnam on Aug. 6.
Another major concern of the group is the farm land assessment which is set at 29 percent in Putnam county and 35 percent in Hendricks county.
"How are people suppose to pay those tax bills?" asked Bertram. "Something has to be done.
"The only way to get anything done is to be the one who squeaks the loudest."
"Families and seniors who live on fixed incomes can't handle these increases," added Johnson. "We are not going to stop until we make some changes."
Audience members also called for the removal of the County Assessor and her office workers.
Several people stood up and reported that they had been to the Assessor's office and asked for explanations about how their tax bills were decided and had not received answers.
"Martinsville hires contractors for their assessments. They are real assessors. The people in the (Putnam) county office do not do the job," exclaimed Gibson.
The meeting ended with organizers encouraging local residents to talk to friends and neighbors, write letters to media and politicians, show up at school board and county commissioner meetings, sign petitions and place signs protesting the property tax in their front yards.
For those interested in purchasing yard signs, contact Gibson at 386-7332.
"This is just the beginning," extolled Gibson. We are not going to stop until something is done no matter how long it takes!"