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Government under the microscope
The Indiana Daily Student reports that the Indiana Department of Transportation spent $68,000,000 more than necessary on road projects, including the improvement of State Road 46 connecting Ellettsville and Bloomington.
Ellettsville Clerk Treasurer Sandra Hash said no one complained about the cost of the project at town council meetings, and that the project was necessary. I don't think many people would dispute the benefits of the project, but that does not give INDOT free reign to spend whatever they want. INDOT is still accountable to the taxpayers.
This follows a long line of problems at INDOT, including the revelation earlier this year that the agency does not have nearly enough money for road construction projects across the state, including the badly needed Interstate 69. Now, Governor Mitch Daniels is saying that the financial crunch means I-69 will need to be a toll road if it is to be built at all. Some serious changes need to happen at INDOT.
Meanwhile, the Herald-Times reports that the Monroe County Assessor's Office made errors in assessing commercial property that are not being corrected. The adjusted assessed value will result in higher property taxes for those businesses, but since Monroe County is on a frozen levy, it will be a tax shift rather than a tax increase.
Sharp blamed the error on a software glitch. In 2003, Sharp blamed another assessment error on a software problem, with one gas station being assessed at about $350 million. (See other articles on that problem here, here, here, here, and here.) But was this only a software glitch or was an error made by the Assessor's Office? Did the Assessor's Office, which was hailed for getting reassessment done at such a rapid pace, go too quickly?
The 2006 elections are just around the corner: candidates can file to run for county offices in just two months. Will this error, combined with the 2003 error, hurt Sharp's chances for re-election? Even with these problems, the Republican Party will have a hard time unseating Sharp, who dominated her opponent in 2002 with 55% of the vote. Her husband took 57% of the vote as he was re-elected Sheriff the same year. One thing that struck me while driving around Bloomington in 2002 was the number of yards that had yard signs for various Republican candidates but also included signs for the Sharps.
I know Judy Sharp, and she and Steve Sharp are two of the nicest people I have ever met. I know she has run her office well and that she has a sincere desire to do her best for county taxpayers. However, the assessment errors should raise questions in the minds of Monroe County voters going into her campaign for re-election next year. Sharp will need to provide clear answers to Monroe County voters. While it is impossible have no mistakes, Sharp will need to assure voters that these errors will be minimized.