There is a new service available to property taxpayers of our county--online payment of property tax with credit/debit cards. This service was brought to you through arrangements made by our Treasurer, Tami Snodgrass, as well as our County Commissioners. This may be a convenient feature for folks--particularly for people who own property, but live out of Owen County. In addition, if you lost your statement, or simply want to look at your property statements (or statements for others as well), you can now do so...and let's face it, we don't always get off work during courthouse hours. With this new system, payments can be made in the evening and on weekends. Please visit:

http://www.owentax.net

The system is not 100% operable and taxes due May 10th are not processed quite yet, but please explore the system and if you see anything that is incorrect or if you find any glitches, please contact the Treasurer's office ASAP at 812-829-5011.
As you may have recently read in the Evening World newspaper, Owen County taxpayers will get a little bit of a break on their property taxes this year. There are several variables that impact the total rate and amount of property tax we pay, but one variable will lower our total rate by approximately .0437 (2006 rate). For the last 20 years, a special rate dedicated to cover the cost of building our new (in 1987) jail and EMS building had been charged. With that debt being paid off later this year, 2007 taxes will see a slight rate decrease and 2008 will see the entire rate eliminated.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

**Per an update late February, the last payment was able to be made at the very end of the year (2006), thus the entire rate will be eliminated for 2007 taxes.
There have been recent developments concerning our county's Medical Transport Service (MTS). This is a service is a separate from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) although the MTS program had been managed by the EMS Director and County Commissioners.

It is safe to assume that many folks may not know the background on this issue or quite understand how the recent Commissioners’ decision to discontinue the service came about.

From a budgetary standpoint since MTS was created, expenses and income concerning MTS were simply a part of the county's EMS budget. The MTS service was widely touted as a money-making service, and, with such money-making ability within a stressed (at the time) EMS budget, it was a welcome way to help the bottom line.

About 3 years ago, there was a County Council debate concerning the actual profitability of MTS. Does it help of hurt the EMS budget? An interim plan to have a separate MTS “reimbursement” fund (where revenue was collected and then used to supplement the EMS budget) was later frowned upon by the State Board of Accounts.

To comply with State Board of Accounts guidelines and to put the impact of this service to the test, the County Council created a separate standing MTS fund and corresponding budget two years ago. Money that only concerns MTS was collected and expenses that only concerns MTS were spent from this fund.

The County Council made a commitment to give this program a chance. As long as it at least broke even each year, the service by itself would work.

During the budget hearings this past September, the County Council approved an MTS budget for 2007 (its third year under the new structure). At the November council meeting, however, it was called to our attention that expenses are not matching up with revenue for the end of 2006. In addition, vehicle expenses were becoming a concern. With costs exceeding revenue projections and the need for investment into vehicles and vehicle repair, the future of this service did not look positive.

Since the November Council meeting, the Board of Commissioners reviewed the issues and unanimously voted to discontinue the service.

It is always unfortunate to lose a valuable service like MTS, but that doesn’t make this a poor decision. I feel confident that a lot of creativity, patience, and opportunity were given to this service in an effort to make it work. There was ample communication concerning MTS management. The EMS Director had done an outstanding job with the service. Considering the now-established impact it can have on the EMS budget and lack of alternative revenue sources the County Council has to work with, the service is not self supportive.

Hopefully you find this background information valuable. Your input and feedback on this issue is important—please send me an email or contact me as I would be happy to discuss it with you.
Budget hearings concluded September 6th and I have had questions concerning raises for our administrative elected officials (Auditor, Treasurer, Clerk, Recorder, and Assessor)--perhaps the 9.5% figure jumped out at you when you read the Evening World’s article? This seems like a steep increase at face value, but the basis for this decision justifies this percentage and makes the figure realistic.

Before any compensation issues were discussed, our first priority was to balance the budget. We were successful by reducing and adjusting expenses totaling about $200,000. From that point, the Council was open to compensation proposals as long as the cost of any proposal was covered by further cuts. We had very good discussion on several ideas and I appreciate all of the input we received from our elected officials, department heads, and employees who helped us make decisions.

After being discussed for many years, our County Council finally addressed a recurring inequity in compensation for courthouse employees—longevity. Our highway department, our deputies, and even part-time employees have had the benefit of some type of longevity pay already in place. And for those who are not familiar with longevity, it is a form of compensation based on years of service. In our case, years of continuous county employment.

There is a side effect of implementing longevity, however. Some current employees and any future employees, with the right amount of service years, would actually get more compensation than our elected officials. In addition, there had been situations in the past where (due to state budget procedure and Indiana Law) elected officials did not get any standard of living wage increase when everyone else did.

We addressed this by placing elected officials at a new salary level that was just outside the reach of any employee longevity amount. The new levels also helped make up for past “no-raise” years and bring salary levels in line with other counties our size. So, yes, elected official compensation has been set at a level that represents a 9.5% increase, but these salary adjustments are a part of a larger plan that addressed longevity and standard of living increases for employees. As mentioned earlier, none of this would have even been implemented had there not been a way to pay for such a proposal.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me--that is why you have trusted me to serve as your County Councilman and I welcome your contact.
At the July County Council meeting, information was shared with respect to the Dog Tax. For many years, the state has had a dog tax that assessed each dog owner a certain amount for each dog, or group of dogs. Trustees were the typical dog tax collectors and the system was largely done on the honor and convenience system (i.e. taking care of the dog when you see one). While it is purely a guess, I would suspect that a large number of dog owners do not pay dog tax at all or consistently.

What was the Dog Tax for? The money collected was spilt several ways with a portion going to a state fund and a portion to the county/township fund. I will have to verify it, but I think a portion also went to Purdue and another portion could be designated to go to an animal control organization. Traditionally, a farmer who had an animal killed by a dog or pack of dogs would contact the township trustee and make arrangements for reimbursement for the value of the animal, which would be paid from the Dog Tax fund.

Now, the state has eliminated their administration of the Dog Tax and allowing each county to decide on whether or not to have it. There are still many unanswered questions.

At the time presented, there were reservations about implementing the County Option Dog Tax. I moved to table the decision in an effort to gain more information and review what was presented. The motion was seconded and passed 7-0. The issue will be back for discussion at our August 14th meeting.

I would generally not support a tax unless we know the following:

-How is it going to be managed, assessed, and collected and is it going to be done in a fair and consistent manner?
-What is the cost associated with having the tax?
-Where will the money collected go and what can it (or does it) have to be spent on?
-What are the pros and cons of having the tax?

I encourage you to contact me with your questions, concerns, ideas, and/or suggestions regarding the County Option Dog Tax.

Paid for by Anton Karl Neff personally