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The Journal Gazette
Max Katz holds an Indiana state flag, and Wayne Kirk a giant bag containing tax bills at the Indiana Tea Party on Sunday at Sylvan Lake.

Tea Party protest at Sylvan Lake

Rage vented over property tax increases

ROME CITY – Like their 18th-century forefathers, taxpayers gathered together Sunday to defy government and make a symbolic move against the grip on their wallets.

They weren’t disguised as Indians, and they weren’t griping about a tax on tea, but a group of property owners had its own version of the Boston Tea Party on Sunday. Instead of throwing barrels of tea into Boston Harbor, Noble and LaGrange county residents stuffed their property tax bills into a white cloth bag, which was then dipped into Sylvan Lake.

While their ancestors were angry about Great Britain’s control over their taxes, these homeowners are incensed about increases of as much as 150 percent on their property tax bills. Assessed values in Noble County increased 12 percent this year on average, county officials have said.

Nick Heffner, an engineer from Rome City, partnered with Hoosiers for Fair Taxation, an Indianapolis-based activist group that advocates the abolishment of property taxes, to organize the event, which drew about 75 residents. The crowd was not deterred by the rain, which came down steadily as people watched the “tea bag” bob in the lake and stood around debating about the increases.

“My taxes went sky high, and I can’t even afford to pay anything,” said Pam Spohr, 53, who owns a house on Sylvan Lake and several rental properties in the area.

Spohr and her husband had to dip into their inheritance and retirement money to help pay the 150 percent increase on their bill. She fears they’ll have to sell the rentals.

Spohr and many other homeowners have written their state legislators about the increases to no avail.

“They vote party line,” Spohr said. “They vote whatever the governor wants.”

Noble County resident Glenn Minser, 42, thinks the solution is to get rid of property taxes altogether. Two years ago, Minser said his property tax bill was about $1,200, then dropped to around $900 last year. It jumped this year to nearly $2,300.

Misner thinks the government needs to quit spending so frivolously and figure out a better way to manage the budget.

“Once they can show a little fiscal responsibility, then we’ll look at taxes again,” Minser said.