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 Township May Have to Rely on ‘07 Budget

September 12, 2007 - The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance confirmed Tuesday that the Wayne Township trustee's failure to properly advertise the township's proposed 2008 budget will likely result in its rejection by the state.

According to a DLGF spokesperson, Trustee Randy Overman was required by Indiana statute to publish Wayne Township's 2008 budget notice twice in The Banner, the only newspaper published in Wayne Township, as well as in one other county newspaper that has a general circulation in the township. While the notice was published in the Courier-Times on July 19 and 26, Overman never gave a copy to The Banner.

The Banner asked Overman in late August when he was going to publish the township's budget notice in the newspaper and when the public hearing on the budget was scheduled. He replied that the hearing had already been held earlier in the month, as had another meeting where the budget was approved, and that the budget notice had only been published in the Courier-Times.

Following these revelations, Banner owner and publisher Eric Cox told Overman he believed state statute required publication of the budget notice in The Banner. Overman was also reminded that he was obligated to give The Banner 48 hours notice before all meetings of the township advisory board, something that was not done with respect to the budget hearing and special meeting where the budget was adopted.

Overman told Cox he had decided not to publish the budget notice in The Banner because of his unhappiness with the newspaper's tardiness in providing the township with an invoice and proof of publication form last year. He said that a DLGF representative who helps him with budget matters told him the notice only needed to be published in the Courier-Times.

Cox apologized to Overman for any delay in getting the township its paperwork, but said he thought the misstep did not excuse the trustee of his obligation to publish the budget notice in The Banner. He also asked Overman to alert him immediately whenever issues like that arise - something Overman had not done with respect to the tardy paperwork last year.

In the nearly two weeks that followed the initial conversation, about this matter, Overman did not provide The Banner with a copy of the township's 2008 budget notice. Although there was still time to properly publish the notice as required by statute and hold another public hearing and adoption meeting, that was not done.

After leaving messages last week for Overman, the trustee finally returned a call to The Banner on Tuesday. Unable to recall the exact dates of when the township advisory board had met for the hearing on the budget and, later, to adopt it, Overman said he would fax a copy of the notice to the newspaper. As of 10 p.m., however, that notice still had not been received.

Tuesday afternoon, The Banner tried but was unable to reach the DLGF representative Overman said had advised him on where to publish the budget notice. However, another agency spokesperson confirmed that the notice was required to be published in The Banner.

Because it is the only newspaper published within Wayne Township's boundaries, Mary Jane Michalak, DLGF director of communications, said the budget notice had to be published in The Banner. She said the failure to abide by this statutory requirement, a Class C infraction, will likely result in the state's rejection of Wayne Township's 2008 budget.

"If they are not properly advertised, we cannot approve a budget," Michalak said. When that happens, she said "the budget goes to zero" and the township's property tax levy would either be the same as the previous year, or the amount generated by the previous year's tax rate, which ever is less.

As an example, Michalak said if assessed property values in Wayne Township increase, property tax rates for the 2008 budget would be lowered so that the levy does not exceed that approved for 2007. If property values are less, she said the 2007 property tax rate would still be applied, which would result in a lower levy.


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