Monday, October 29, 2007

township assessors don't like Daniels' plan: surprise!

From the AP in Sunday's C-J...

The Indiana Assessors Association said its property tax streamlining plan would replace Indiana's 92 elected county assessors with 10 appointed regional administrators.

Daniels' property-tax reform package would eliminate Indiana's 1,008 elected township and county assessors and appoint one assessor in each county. Those assessors would be named by city councils rather than elected by voters.

But the assessors group thinks its approach would lead to greater consistency in the assessment process and also would help improve the bad image of their line of work created by this year's assessment problems....

This is a nice example of a key principle in economics and politics: those who have the best information are often the least credible in dispensing that information, because they stand to gain so much from how the information is used.

The governor's plan was prompted by flaws in assessments that led Daniels to order them redone in several counties this year.

While his plan would appoint one assessor in each county, the assessors association's plan would replace elected county assessors with a system headed by the 10 regional assessor supervisors, who would report to the state Department of Revenue. It would also replace elected township assessors with an experienced, certified assessor picked by the regional supervisor.

Daniels contends that Indiana has too many people involved in the assessment system, and that leads to assessments that, in terms of accuracy, are inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another. He also thinks too few of the people doing the work have the education and training they need and that the job is too political.

A 2001 report by the National Association of Counties indicates 24 states have elected county assessors and nine have appointed county assessors. An additional 15 states do not have county-level assessors, leaving the work to be done at the state level.

In addition to the intuitive thought that so much bureaucracy is unlikely to be effective, we're told here that the norm is county-level or state-level assessment.

George Geib, a professor of history at Butler University, said the township assessors' connection to the voters at the local level may be their ace in the hole.

"The biggest problem the governor will have getting this whole thing through is getting past this engine of political activity," he said of township politics. "These offices do involve a number of people who are very politically active and assertive, and they are likely to dig in their heels and make it hard."

Dr. Geib is pointing to another key principle from "Public Choice economics"-- an interest group is likely to carry the day, even though their preferred policy is inequitable and inefficient. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.


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