INDIANAPOLIS — Current Indiana law requires county councils to approve the wording of local ballot referendums before residents can vote for or against raising property taxes to increase school operating budgets.
State Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) said this state law often forces local elected officials — who may personally oppose the referendum — to appear on-record in support of property tax increases.
Banks, a former Whitley County Council member, said he plans to change that.
Senate Bill 323 — Banks’ first bill to pass the Senate — would help clarify the process by shifting the responsibility for approving referendum language from county councils to the non-partisan Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF).
Senators voted overwhelmingly 47-2 in support of Banks’ bill, which now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Banks said last year the Whitley County Council faced confusion over the interpretation of Indiana Code and the council’s role in the referendum process. Banks, then a member of the council, said fiscally conservative members voted against the referendum and later were advised to reverse their decision in order to meet their statutory duties and for the measure to go before area voters.
“I believe Senate Bill 323 helps clarify the referendum process and ensures taxpayers’ voices are heard at the polls without forcing local elected officials who may oppose the referendum to appear on-record in support of the property tax increase,” Banks said.
If passed, ballot question language would be approved by the DLGF before being certified by the circuit court clerk. Banks said county councils would still be made aware of referendum requests.