UNION TOWNSHIP, ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Petitioner,
STATE OF INDIANA, DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE, Respondent
Corrected November 25, 2015.
ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: PETER J. AGOSTINO, M. CATHERINE
FANELLO, ANDERSON AGOSTINO & KELLER, P.C., South Bend, IN.
FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
INDIANA, EVAN W. BARTEL, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL,
ON APPEAL FROM TWO FINAL DETERMINATIONS OF THE
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE
Township challenges the two final determinations of the
Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) that denied the
two excess property tax levy appeals it made in 2012. Upon
review, the Court reverses those final determinations.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Township is a civil taxing unit located in St. Joseph County,
Indiana. In July of 2012, Union Township, together with the
Union-Lakeville Fire Protection Territory, requested the
DLGF's permission to impose an excess property tax levy.
(See Cert. Admin. R. at 14-17.) Their appeal documentation
asserted that due to a $40 million " error" in
calculating Union Township's 2010 net assessed valuation,
they each suffered a property tax revenue shortfall in 2011.
(See Cert. Admin. R. at 15.) More specifically, they
explained that the error was the result of the DLGF
certifying Union Township's 2011 budget based on a net
assessed valuation of $159,424,430, but St. Joseph County
subsequently issuing the tax bills using a lower net assessed
valuation of $119,968,732. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 1, 14.)
Union Township and the Union-Lakeville Fire Protection
Territory therefore requested the DLGF to " increas[e]
the current [net assessed valuation] by at least $40,000,000
and  allow a levy for 2012 payable 2013 sufficient to
make up for the cumulative effect of th[at] error."
(Cert. Admin. R. at 16.)
October 16, 2012, Union Township submitted a second request
for the DLGF's permission to impose an excess levy. (See
Cert. Admin. R. at 20.) This second appeal again identified
the $40 million error as the cause of a property tax revenue
shortfall in 2011; it specifically sought a levy increase in
the amount of $51,929. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 24, 26-27.)
December 7, 2012, the DLGF issued two final determinations
that denied both excess levy appeals. (Cert. Admin. R. at
71-74.) On January 8, 2013, Union Township initiated an
original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on
September 11, 2013 at the University of Notre Dame
Law School., Additional facts will be supplied
party seeking to overturn a DLGF final determination bears
the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. See Brown v.
Dep't of Local Gov't Fin., 989 N.E.2d 386, 388
(Ind.Tax Ct. 2013). This Court will reverse a DLGF final
determination if it is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of
discretion, unsupported by substantial evidence, or contrary
to law. See id.
government units pay their operating costs and expenditures,
in part, through the collection of property taxes.
Consequently, each unit is required, annually, to formulate
an estimated budget, proposed tax levy, and proposed tax
rates for the ensuing year. See generally
Ind. Code § § 6-1.1-17-3, -5 (2010) (amended 2012).
order to make these formulations, each unit relies on
information it receives from its county auditor regarding the
assessed valuation of property within its taxing district and
the resulting estimated tax collection. See generally Ind.
Code § 6-1.1-17-1(a), (c) (2010) (amended 2012). More
specifically, the units rely on a certified statement,
prepared and distributed by the county auditor no later than
August 1 of each year, containing:
(1) information concerning the assessed valuation in the
political subdivision for the next calendar year;
(2) an estimate of the taxes to be distributed to the
political subdivision during the last six (6) months of the
current calendar year;
(3) the current assessed valuation as shown on the abstract
(4) the average growth in assessed valuation in the political
subdivision over the preceding three (3) budget years,
adjusted according to procedures established by the [DLGF] to
account for reassessment under IC 6-1.1-4-4 or IC
(5) the amount of the political subdivision's net
assessed valuation reduction determined under section 0.5(d)
of this chapter;
(6) for counties with taxing units that cross into or
intersect with other counties, the assessed valuation as
shown on the most ...