Government Center

MOROCCO — A year after reinstating political party requirements for the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA), the majority of the Newton County Council went against state statute in its appointment to that board at its monthly meeting on Jan. 15, 2021.

According to state statute, no more than two of a three-member PTABOA can belong to the same party. However, that subsection of the law can be waived if there is an absence of certified level two or three Indiana assessors-appraisers whose appointment would satisfy the political party requirements.

In 2017, Newton County Assessor Kristen Hoskins, the county council, and the Newton County Commissioners voted to waive the political party requirements since at that time allegedly no Democrats were willing to be on that board.

The county council voted to reinstate those political party requirements in 2019 after finding out that two Democrats were willing to serve on that board and one of those had a level three certification.

To fulfill the political party requirement, the county council made a motion this past Friday to appoint Teri Pasierb, a Democrat, to the PTABOA. However, that motion failed by a 4-3 vote.

“I don’t think it’s a board that was broke, so why are we changing it,” said Council Vice President Scott Carlson.

“The motion was made to comply with the letter of the law,” said Councilmember David Atkinson.

“We have two Democrats willing to serve on that board, there is no need to keep waiving the political party requirements,” said Council President Michael Mark. “I pushed for Christine Belt to be our appointment, but that was before I knew she works for a vendor that gets paid by the assessor’s office.”

Mark added that the PTABOA is an important board for the county’s taxpayers and the council needs to appoint someone, not only based on the law but also that is best for the county taxpayers not just what is best for the assessor’s office.

Hoskins urged the county council to not make a change with their appointment to the board that has direct oversight of her office’s assessments.

The motion to appoint Pasierb to the PTABOA failed by a single vote, with councilmembers Mick Vanderwall, Tim Lohr, Scott Carlson, and Matt Gibson voting against it. While Abbey Rossiter, Atkinson, and Mark voted yes.

Following the failure of that motion, a motion to re-appoint Belt to the PTABOA board passed by a 5-2 vote with Rossiter and Mark voting no, and Carlson, Lohr, Vanderwall, Atkinson, and Gibson voting yes.

There is still a chance that Newton County comes into compliance with the political party requirements of the PTABOA since the Newton County Commissioners have yet to make their two annual appointments, but neither Kyle Conrad nor Butch Cain, who were both at the county council meeting, indicated that they were going to appoint a Democrat. Conrad actually argued for the assessor’s office and against the council making a new appointment to that board.

In other news, the council voted to offer healthcare compensation for its attorney Linda Harris under the same guidelines of County Attorney Pat Ryan.

There was a disagreement on who can authorize that. Commissioner Conrad said that only the commissioners can do that, while Council President Mark said their municipal law firm informed him it’s in the council’s power to offer that.

A motion to request the commissioners to negotiate the contract with the insurance provider to add Harris was approved by the council 6-1, with Mark the lone no vote. He voted no because he said he feels the council doesn’t need to do that.

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