By John Buechler, Director of Geoinformatics, The Polis Center
In Indiana, the county assessor identifies and appraises all taxable property. To accurately value a property, the office collects information such as square footage, construction type, and year built. The assessor then provides this information to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (IDLGF)—the department responsible for ensuring that property tax assessment and local government budgeting are carried out in accordance with Indiana law. To ensure compliance, IDLGF annually reviews and approves the tax rates and levies of every one of Indiana’s political subdivisions that has tax levy authority, for example, counties, cities, towns, townships, school corporations, etc.
Additionally, SAVI collects the IDLGF property assessment and tax data from the Indiana Business Research Center and links it with the parcel boundaries from Indiana Map in order to generate statistical summaries by census tracts, neighborhoods, and jurisdictions for 9 counties in Central Indiana.
But why is this data important? Your first reaction may be that you don’t have much need for such comprehensive data. But I’ll argue that you do. In fact, these data can provide value to everyone from an individual taxpayer to a nonprofit organization to a library or school district…the list goes on and on.
Here are a just a few questions that communities and organizations can answer using the property data in SAVI.
1. WHERE DO RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAX DISPARITIES EXIST? The property data reveals how much residents pay in taxes, which can help identify if there are tax disparities in neighborhoods, or even according to housing unit type.
2. WHAT IS THE MIX OF LAND USE? Land use can help you understand the basic composition of an area (i.e., how much is residential as compared to commercial or industrial), which is valuable because it highlights open spaces and opportunities for new development. Land use data can also put other data in perspective. For example, data tells us that robbery rates are often higher in commercial areas. So, when looking at crime statistics for a particular neighborhood, knowing that 60% of properties in that neighborhood are commercial will help you to interpret the significance of the higher robbery crime rates.
3. WHICH AREAS HAVE OLDER HOUSING STOCK AND REQUIRE SPECIAL REDEVELOPMENT CONSIDERATIONS? Older homes (particularly those built before 1980) often contain lead-based paint on the interior walls, the outside of the home, the window frames, and more. And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to lead is the “number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States.” So it is important for neighborhoods and health departments to understand where lead exposure may exist.
The following map illustrates how you can use SAVI to visualize the areas with older homes that may have lead-based paint. It displays the percent of residential dwellings in each census tract that were built before 1980 in Marion County and parts of the surrounding counties.
These were just three examples of how the property data, particularly when coupled with SAVI’s statistical summaries and visualization tools, can be beneficial to communities and neighborhoods.
If you’ve used this data in other ways, tell us your story. We’d love to know!