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 Letters Published in August 1, 2007 Issue



 Aug. 1, 2007 - Letter submitted by Ronald W. Rayl, commander, Knightstown American Legion Post 152

Soon, very soon the American Legion in Knightstown will begin a new era in its history. Post 152 will be occupying their new home at 224 E. Main St. It is our hope that we will be able to better serve our members and guests. Ample parking, no steps to climb and other surprise perks await those who visit us.

It must be understood that we are not the corner tavern, the local dance hall, or just another social club. We are members of a proud organization of veterans still serving their community, state and nation. We conduct regular meetings to discuss, support and initiate the programs of justice, freedom and democracy. Support for our young men and women in uniform is unconditional, wherever they may be. Some of our younger members have already been deployed to Iraq and have safely returned. Within the next few months, more of our younger people will leave for a hostile arena again. We pray for their safety and return. Their presence and vigor will be sorely missed.

On the community scene, our efforts in scholarship, children and youth, and Americanism is well documented. We are supported in our endeavors by two fine organizations within themselves. The American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion. The fund-raising capabilities of these two support groups have had much to do with our first class status. Together, we are known as the American Legion Family.

Although our ranks have been depleted by the passing of our older vets and the deployment of some of our younger ones, the future is bright. Eligibility for membership in our family has been open for veterans and their families since the Gulf War began. There are more than 7,000 eligible veterans in Henry County. I ask only for a few good men and women.

There will be much activity at both our homes in the next two to three weeks. Stop by, check us out, and give us a chance to make you a part of our proud family. Carry on.



 Aug. 1, 2007 - Letter submitted by David Bottorff, executive director, Association of Indiana Counties

Who is responsible for increasing property taxes? The property tax system has become so complicated that it's difficult to explain. If fixing the property tax system was easy, it would have been done by now. Everyone has a little responsibility, from elected officials to individual taxpayers who often times do not attend public meetings when budgets are adopted or pay close attention to the cost of new building projects.

Often, the people who have little to do with spending property tax dollars take the most grief. To the defense of county administrative offices such as auditors, treasurers or assessors, they administer the property tax system. They have the word "county" in their title so often people believe property taxes only go the county. Although property tax administration happens at the courthouse, the money is spent by political units throughout the county, such as schools, cities, towns, townships, libraries and the county. More than 50% of property tax money goes to schools. On average, less than 20% of property taxes are retained by the county. Complaining or protesting in the county treasurers' office has no effect on property tax increases or spending. If taxpayers want to complain about spending, they should attend a meeting of a local fiscal body that can actually do something about it. If your property assessment needs adjusted, you should contact your county assessor. If you need to file an exemption you should contact your auditor.

Levy (levies are funds raised from property taxes) increases are the result of two functions, operating dollars and new construction. Even though property taxes are increasing significantly in some parts of the state, it is important to remember that operating levies are capped. Since 2002, operating levies for counties, cities and towns have hovered around 4%. Before 2002, levies were allowed to increase by 5%. A 4% levy cap does not mean a growth of 4% in the overall budgets as other revenue sources do not grow at 4%. In normal years, assessed values increase so that the tax rate for operating budgets remains constant or only has small increases.

Capital projects are often the reason for a spike in property taxes. However, individuals have the opportunity to prevent new capital projects such as schools, libraries, fire stations or jails through a remonstrance process. Only about 50% of such projects are ever stopped by taxpayers. Most communities make the decision that new or improved schools are important. Taxpayers need to be cognizant that these projects will be paid for through property taxes.

By design, two factors were working to shift some of the property tax burden to homeowners for property taxes due this year. Trending, or annual assessed value increases, increased the taxable assessed value of homes for taxes payable this year. For neighborhoods with increasing home values, the tax liability is expected to increase. This year homeowners experienced the result of having several years of increased home values hit all at once. Such adjustments will now be made on an annual basis.

A second factor that increased the shift to homeowners was the exemption of business inventory from taxation. If certain classes of property are exempt from property taxes, the property tax rate increases so that the necessary amount of property taxes is still collected. Locals can offset this increase with an income tax, but the end result is a shift from business tax liability to individual tax liability. This shift may help from an economic development standpoint but it does shift the liability to homeowners.

Repealing property taxes is not the answer; however, reducing the government services that rely on property taxes has merit. There are some services that are more appropriately funded through a statewide tax, such as the school general fund or protecting children from abuse and neglect (family and children property tax fund). These types of services reflect state policies and not a local policy. County officials will continue to scrutinize their budgets, advocate for reduced reliance on property taxes and a better assessment system.



 Aug. 1, 2007 - Letter submitted by Nate LaMar, Henry County Councilman

Rudyard Kipling wrote The White Man's Burden in 1899 at the height of the British Empire. To cynics it meant protecting commercial interests. To most it meant spreading Christianity. Today, Kenya is fertile territory for a new "white man's burden."

Kenya is a front-line in today's competition between Christianity and Islam. After all, its national language, Swahili, is a mixture of Arabic and indigenous languages, which developed as a way for Arab traders on the Indian Ocean to communicate with its people. Along the often washboard-like Nairobi-Mombassa highway are many dirt-poor villages. Each has at least one church, typically Protestant. Like most Kenyan schools, these churches are small, humble structures, usually without windows or electricity. The government of Saudi Arabia is now building mosques in many of these same villages. Al-Qaeda has a presence in Mombassa and along Kenya's coast. It was responsible for the simultaneous bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on August 7, 1998, as well as a December 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombassa and the failed firing of a missile at an Israeli jet taking-off from Mombassa.

Eastern Indiana is well-represented in Kenya's missionary community. Dave & Jennifer Bell, graduates of Hagerstown High School, lead the Kenya mission of Health Education for Africa Resource Teams (HEART). They are sponsored by area churches, to include Springport Christian Church, Mooreland's First Christian Church, and Muncie's Tabor Baptist Church. As medical missionaries, they provide basic health and AIDS prevention education in remote, rural villages throughout Kenya. Daniel Fowl, a home-schooled senior from New Castle, spent six weeks in Kenya as a short-term missionary, often staying in Muslim-majority villages (his parents learned this detail when he got home!).

In Nairobi, sitting at the historic (1902) Stanley Hotel's Thorn Tree Café, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, I overhead conversations among many short-term missionaries, ranging from conservative Campus Crusade for Christ to the liberal Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. On our flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi, I sat next to a retired South African couple making their annual trip to Garissa, Kenya, as part of a group of 18 short-term missionaries. Garissa is in Kenya's dangerous northeast, a lawless, tribal area, over which the government has little control. The civil war in Somalia often spills over into this Muslim-majority area, which is already saturated with Somali refugees. They told me that about half-way between Nairobi and Garissa, they must stop at a Kenyan Army check-point, at which a contingent of soldiers accompanies them to convoy on to Garissa.

Thus far, I have only served on short-term missions within the USA. As my late grandparents, William & Naomi Burkman, helped build a church in Nigeria, I, too, hope to "take up the white man's burden," and one day serve on a short-term mission overseas, hopefully in Kenya or in Nigeria, another front-line between Christianity and Islam.


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