Gary, Indiana School Board Member Refuses to Pay $566,000 in Delinquent Property Taxes
They say unpaid property taxes are one big reason why the Gary, Indiana school district is struggling financially.
It turns out one of the guilty parties is Marion Williams, an elected member of the Gary school board.
Williams has refused to pay more than $566,000 in taxes and penalties on several abandoned or dilapidated properties in the city, opting instead to allow them to go to a public tax auction later this summer, the Kokomo Tribune reports.
Williams acknowledged the tax debts, “but said some of the properties he owned were divided among his ex-wife and children,” the newspaper reports. “Williams doesn’t plan on paying the taxes, saying he’s a victim of the city’s profoundly depressed real estate market.”
What a wonderful example for the city’s taxpayers. As a community leader, Williams sends the message to city residents that if they don’t want to pay their taxes, they don’t have to.
The sad part is Williams seems aloof to how his actions impact the school district he’s elected to serve. The Tribune reports that the Gary school district’s $23.7 million budget deficit is in part driven by the city’s abysmally low 42 percent tax collection rate.
To make matters worse, Williams and other members elected to the school board in 2012 based their campaigns on fixing the district’s chronic budget problems, although Williams ran unopposed, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.
Williams’ refusal to do his part to help fund local schools obviously won’t make or break school finances, but it certainly calls into question his integrity and commitment to serve in the best interests of students.
As Williams simply ignored his financial responsibility, the district has laid off hundreds of teachers and administrators, and eliminated dozens of other staff positions, according to the NWI Times.
Gary schools Superintendent Sheryl Pruitt declined to comment about Williams’ tax problems, but “Lake County Treasurer John Petalas said many of Williams’ delinquent properties will go to auction at his annual tax sale this summer,” according to the Tribune.
Hopefully a far more responsible citizen will purchase the properties and contribute their fair share to help Gary schools get back on financial track. In the meantime, local taxpayers would be wise to reconsider the district’s leadership heading into the next school board election in November.