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Indianapolis Pub. Transp. Corp. v. Dep't of Local Gov't Fin.

Tax Court of Indiana

July 15, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION CORPORATION, Petitioner,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE, Respondent

ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: BETH H. HENKEL, LAW OFFICE OF BETH HENKEL LLC, Indianapolis, IN.

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA; EVAN W. BARTEL, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.

Page 537

ORDER ON RESPONDENT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

Martha Blood Wentworth, Judge.

Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (" IndyGo" ) filed an appeal with this Court after the Department of Local Government Finance (" DLGF" ) issued the 2012 Budget Order for Marion County. The matter is currently before the Court on the DLGF's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Motion). In that Motion, the DLGF asserts that IndyGo does not have standing to bring its appeal and therefore its case must be dismissed. Being duly advised, the Court denies the DLGF's Motion.

BACKGROUND

IndyGo, a public transportation corporation formed and operating under Indiana Code § 36-9-4, provides bus service throughout Marion County, Indiana.[1] See Indianapolis Pub. Transp. Corp. v. Dep't of Local Gov't Fin., 988 N.E.2d 1274, 1275 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2013). In late summer of 2011, IndyGo, through its authorized officers and after the appropriate public hearings, adopted its proposed budget for 2012, complete with estimated property tax levies and applicable tax rates.[2] (See, e.g., Pet'r Pet. Judicial Review (" Pet." ), Exs. A, C.) Pursuant to Indiana Code § 36-3-6-9, IndyGo submitted its proposed budget to the City-County Council of Indianapolis and Marion County (the Council).[3] (See Pet., Ex. C.)

On October 17, 2011, the Council made several changes to IndyGo's proposed budget appropriations and tax levy rates.

Page 538

(Compare Pet., Ex. C at 8 with Ex. D at 8.) See also Ind. Code § 36-3-6-9 (2011) (providing that when the Council reviewed IndyGo's proposed budgets and tax levies, it was allowed to " reduce or modify but not increase" them). Meanwhile, the Council was in the process of preparing proposed 2012 budgets for the City of Indianapolis and Marion County. (See Pet. ¶ ¶ 24-25[4], Ex. E.) Ultimately, all three budgets were forwarded to the DLGF for review. See, e.g., Ind. Code § 36-9-4-51(d) (2012) (providing not only that the budgets for IndyGo, the City of Indianapolis, and Marion County were to " be prepared and submitted at the same time, in the same manner, and with the same notice[,]" but also that the DLGF could review them " in the same manner" ).

On February 3, 2012, the DLGF issued " 1782 Notices" to all taxing units within Marion County advising them of the revisions, reductions, and adjustments that it proposed to make to their budgets, rates, and levies. (See Pet. ¶ ¶ 27-30, Exs. F-H.) See also Ind. Code § 6-1.1-17-16(d) (2012) (explaining that the DLGF shall provide notice to each political subdivision specifying any proposed revision, reduction, or increase to its tax levies or rates). For instance, the DLGF indicated that, among other things, it was reducing the tax rates applicable to the City of Indianapolis's debt service and cumulative capital development fund levies and Marion County's general fund levy. (See Pet., Exs. G at 2, H at 2.) The DLGF also reduced the tax rates applicable to IndyGo's debt service and transportation cumulative fund levies. (Compare Pet., Ex. D at 8 with Ex. F at 3-4.) The City of Indianapolis, Marion County, and IndyGo were all given time to respond to the DLGF's proposed adjustments. (See Pet., Exs. F at 1, G at 1, H at 1.) See also I.C. § 6-1.1-17-16(d).

On February 7, 2012, IndyGo submitted a response asserting that the DLGF made several e rrors in calculating IndyGo's tax rate adjustments. (See Pet. ¶ 31, Ex. I.) The DLGF sent an email to IndyGo stating that the tax rate adjustments would remain in place. (See Pet. ¶ 40-41, Ex. K at 2.)

On February 15, 2012, the DLGF issued the 2012 Budget Order for Marion County which incorporated the final budgets, tax rates, and tax levies for IndyGo, the City of Indianapolis, and Marion County. (See Pet. ¶ 41, Ex. L.) On February 22, 2015, IndyGo sent an email to the DLGF identifying yet another error with respect to the DLGF's adjustment to IndyGo's debt service fund levy. (See Pet. ¶ 43, Exs. M at 2, N at 1.)

On February 27, 2012, the DLGF amended the 2012 Budget Order for Marion County. (See Pet. ¶ 44, Ex. O.) The amended 2012 Budget Order for Marion County did not address, however, any of the objections or errors raised by IndyGo relating to its tax package. (Pet. ¶ 44.)

On March 28, 2012, IndyGo initiated an original tax appeal. IndyGo's petition stated in relevant part:

This is an action for judicial review pursuant to Ind[iana] Code § 6-1.1-17-16 . . . [that] arises out of the DLGF's issuance of the 2012 Marion County Budget Order on February 15, 2012, over the objections of IndyGo as to certain matters detailed [t]herein. []The DLGF subsequently amended and reissued the 2012 Marion County Budget Order on February 27, 2012, but the DLGF failed to address the issues to which IndyGo

Page 539

objected. . . . IndyGo has standing to bring this action, as the 2012 Budget Order, as amended, will result in a reduction of an estimated $768,330 in the 2012 General Fund and an estimated $39,924 [] in the Debt Service Fund levy. . . . This Petition is timely filed within 45 days of the date of the DLGF's issuance of the original ...

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