“Blue Ribbon Panel” Report Due Soon, Expected to Detail Problems with Gary Property Assessments

Report is due soon and “has the potential to be devastating” if not handled carefully according to Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince

May 6, 2018-Acknowledging that there are serious issues with property assessments in Calumet Township, Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince created a panel of experts to look at ways to solve the issues without devastating the City. The unprecedented panel consists of experts in a variety of fields according to Prince and their mission is to fix the property assessments in the City. The Gazette first learned of the existence of the panel of experts about two years ago. Prince explained that the panel has wrapped up its work and a report is expected soon.

Prince stated that the report could have the “potential to be devastating” to the City of Gary which is already facing a fiscal crisis. Although Prince did not speak to the specifics of what will be in the report, the report is expected to suggest that a large number of properties in the City are overtaxed. Prince made it clear that he did not want the report to create a divide between his office and that of the Calumet Township Assessor. “They are well aware of the Blue Ribbon Panel” Prince stated. Prince went on to explain that the Township Assessor has acknowledged some of the issues with overassessments. “They have begun to make changes, most likely because I greased the wheel” Prince said of the Calumet Township Assessor.”

While Prince explicitly does not want the existence of the panel report to be an issue in Tuesday’s election, the Panel serves as an acknowledgement that there are serious problems in the office of the Calumet Township Assessor that need to be addressed. While Prince says the report could be “devastating to the City of Gary”, the bulk of any reductions are likely to hit the Department of Redevelopment and the Airport Development Zone not the Civil City. Thus, fixing the assessments is likely to cost consultant contracts for people like Bo Kemp more than it is likely to hurt City services which have already been cut to the bone to pay Kemp, Vicari, Jewell Harris, Jr. D&R Site services and many others.

Over assessments have become a critical issue in the race for Calumet Township Assessor as challenger Jim Nowacki has repeatedly claimed that many properties in the City are overassessed. Nowacki asserts that the errors in assessments are the root of the problems in the City and that fixing these issues is the first step in correcting the problem. In a series of radio shows Nowacki and Collins have been trading barbs with Nowacki pointing to the assessment errors and Collins attacking Nowacki personally. The fact that the serious and longstanding problems with assessments in Calumet Township are known to professionals in the field is certainly important to voters in making a determination on Tuesday.

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