Greencastle officials had one thing on their minds when they came together at city hall Thursday night -- property taxes.
Mayor Sue Murray called a special town hall meeting to discuss the Indiana General Assem-bly's plan to reduce the government's reliance on property taxes.
Both the mayor and the Assistant Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) Ann Cottongim agreed about one thing -- that legislators in Indianapolis are determined to come away from their current session on March 15 having put a cap on property taxes.
The problem seen by many cities across the state of Indiana -- and the question raised by officials at Thursday night's well-attended meeting at city hall -- is how are municipalities going to pay for services if property taxes are capped off?
Mayor Murray said she is concerned that the city may not have enough money to provide essential services, depending on what the legislation does to the state's current system of property taxes.
House Bill 1001 proposes limiting residential homestead property taxes to 1.5 percent of a home's assessed value in 2009 and further cut it to 1 percent in 2010.
In addition, it seeks a 2.5 percent cap on agricultural and other residential rental property in 2009, to be followed by an additional cut to 2 percent in 2010.
All other property will be capped at 3 percent for 2009 and 2010, according to the statistics presented at Thursday night's meeting.
All this, according to Cottongim, will mean a significant loss in funding to municipalities across the state.
Cottongim and Mayor Murray said that while they support the idea of reducing the reliance on property taxes, they want to be able to provide alternate sources of funding for cities.
"Give us the tools to provide services," Murray said.
With only two weeks until the session ends, Mayor Murray said she will continue to track the progress of the property tax legislation and join the IACT's efforts to educate the public and try to make the city's voice heard.
She said she had met with Sen. Connie Lawson and Rep. Amos Thomas on the other side of the issue in an effort to understand their goals and objectives as well.
Members of the general public, who attended the meeting, had varying comments about the plan. Some said they felt municipalities have a tendency to "overspend" the money they have.
Cottongim said she believes county governments and state government are more to blame for overspending than cities and towns.
More information on the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and its views on the property tax legislation is available at citiesandtowns.org
To view a version of House Bill 1001 itself, visit www.in.gov/legislative and click on "bills and resolutions" and enter "1001" in the bill search window.