Property Tax Assessment Appeal Issues Continue

Last session, county officials sought drastic changes to Indiana’s property tax assessment methodology in reaction to two decisions from the Indiana Board of Tax Review (IBTR) involving “big-box” retail stores (e.g., a Meijer and a Kohl’s store). Officials complained that assessment appeals were being wrongly decided because the IBTR allowed the consideration of the sale price of like buildings that had been closed and were vacant at the time of the transaction as evidence of the value of the operating stores. Assessing officials called these transactions “dark sales” and contended such sales should be precluded from being considered in determining the assessment of like structures that remain open and occupied by large retail entities. The legislative result was something of a standoff between county officials and affected taxpayers. The ultimate legislation (SB 436) left a lot to be desired since the interested parties maintained such disparate viewpoints. They were – and remain – fundamentally divided on how real estate should be valued under Indiana law.

The issue came to the forefront again last month when the IBTR issued another decision that resulted in a significant reduction to a large commercial entity; this time, a CVS Pharmacy store in Bloomington. Interestingly enough, this case did not involve a “big-box” and was not based on the application of “dark sales” (even though you would have thought so from the way it was being publicly described by many.) Nevertheless, it was cited as another case where the IBTR had somehow gotten it wrong and was making a bad decision.

The situation essentially reveals: Assessors and county officials believe that large national chains should be taxed more because they are large national chains (and refuse to acknowledge the state of the law which just doesn’t support their higher assessments.) The IBTR has merely been doing its job, applying case law that has developed from Tax Court decisions issued since 2010 and before.

What’s more, assessors and county officials do not want to assess the property based on its fair market value, they want to assess it based on the value of the business operations that take place on the property — what I call “value to the user.” Property tax is supposed to be a tax on the value of real estate, not a tax on the investment value that real estate has to the owner. This debate arises out of the statutory and administrative rule definitions that govern our assessment system. Indiana defines true tax value as something different than the market value-in-exchange (what the property could sell for); instead it creates a hybrid standard referred to as “market value-in-use”. This hybrid was created to protect some properties from higher taxes. The best example is when a highly valuable piece of prime commercial real estate is actually used for agricultural or residential purposes.

But now there is a movement to interpret market value-in-use as a means for taxing the value the property has to its specific user, i.e., the national retail chain owner. This is not only subjective, unfair and inequitable; it is unworkable. It would result in nearly identical buildings being assessed at widely differing values based on the financial status and circumstances of the particular owner. Such a standard is contrary to our Indiana Constitution and would effectively undermine the integrity of our entire assessment system.

It is an important issue and appears it is going to be taken back up next month by the Interim Committee on Fiscal Policy, which has scheduled meetings for October 7, 13 and 21.

New Workplace State and Federal Posters: Order Yours Now

Poster_Subscript_serviceWe’re printing new state and federal workplace posters due to some material changes that have been made this year — including a new mandatory supplement for federal contractors to the “Equal Opportunity is the Law” posting that was released this week. Here are the recent updates (below), and you can order new sets online — or join our free subscription service to take the burden off of yourself when it comes to tracking changes:

  • Indiana Teen Worker Hours: The differentiation between “your work permit allows you to work” and “with parental permission you may work”; maximum hours; break requirements; graduates/withdrawn from school information.
  • OSHA Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law (updated in early 2015): The federal OSHA poster was given a new look. The changes were mostly visual, although two new bullet points were added, stating employers must: (1) Report to OSHA all work-related fatalities within eight hours, and all inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours; and (2) Provide required training to all workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
  • Supplement to “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” Poster for Federal Contractors: This supplement was released in September 2015 as part of the OFCCP’s final rule promoting pay transparency. It requires that federal contractors and subcontractors amend equal employment opportunity information to state that it is unlawful to discharge or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants. It also contains information on federal contractors’ obligations regarding affirmative action and employing individuals with disabilities and veterans.

Allied Tube and Conduit: Maximizing Its Chamber Membership Through Participation

alliedAt Allied Tube and Conduit, safety must come first.

Randy Pratt, a member of security and traffic control staff, checks drivers in and out, makes employees aware of safety rules and keeps an eye on operations such as tubing fabrication and laser machine usage. In a manufacturing environment, Pratt understands the importance of keeping his team safe.

Pratt is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. Attending the Chamber’s 2015 Safety and Health Conference & Expo provided further training while exposing him to the opportunity to learn more about business.

“The safety conference was very engaging.” Pratt says. “I was grateful for the many leaders who taught and for the many ideas and learning experiences that I had.”

Pratt has been a part of his company for seven and a half years, with two years in his current position. Since attending the conference with the Chamber, Pratt has tried to implement a “safety culture” in his workplace where employees will be held accountable for being safe.

“After having the understanding of ‘watching everybody’s back’ when it comes to safety, I have tried to encourage my newly-learned word of safety ‘culture’ and encourage it to others,” Pratt described shortly after the spring event. “I recently brought it up in the safety committee asking for any ideas about how to make it more concrete among all.”

One tool he has used from the conference is “gamifying” safety, which makes the concept more inviting by presenting safety rules like a game. Pratt also enjoyed the legal briefings he received.

“This (conference) has been very informative and it actually gets you thinking on things that are not only pertinent to safety, but the legal ramifications,” he explains. “I was totally unaware of the necessity of legal issues for OSHA.”

Allied Tube and Conduit in Kokomo is part of Atkore International, which allows its employees to pursue continuing education. After his experience attending the safety conference, Pratt says, “I kind of hope they pick me again.”

Stephanie Arne: A Global Perspective on Wellness


Stephanie Arne is the first-ever female host of the iconic show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” She will be the opening presenter at the 2015 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit (October 7-8) discussing the connection between human health and planetary health.

Indiana Chamber: The definition of “wellness” can be pretty broad. What is your fresh perspective on what wellness truly is, and what does that mean for the average person?

Stephanie Arne: “Wellness” means achieving “a state of healthy balance.” When you eat nourishing food, get appropriate levels of exercise, avoid stress triggers and take proper personal time for emotional well-being – each of these actions moves the body into greater states of balance.

The part I think has been missing from the “wellness” concept up to this point has been how much these things are truly connected to each other, and furthermore, how much these things are connected to that which is external to us – specifically, our environment.

We have, so far, missed the bigger picture – to see our global interconnectedness, and how this translates to personal health. For all of us, this means opening up to the tremendous opportunities afforded by taking a global perspective to ones’ health, which I look forward to discussing further at the Health and Wellness Summit in October.

IC: What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation specifically and the summit as a whole?

SA: I hope attendees will walk away feeling uplifted and empowered to effect change, whatever that may mean for them personally. One person may feel empowered to reduce the amount of processed foods they consume, which ultimately benefits their own health, but also has a global impact by reducing the demand for chemically-made, environmentally-polluting products. Another person may feel empowered to start a community garden where they can share fresh, organic produce with their neighbors, creating a space for simultaneous recreation and community connection, as well as a place to obtain healthy food. Either way, both people will be making immediate changes that will result in long-term benefits.

IC: Why should every company/organization take an active role in promoting healthy lifestyles and engaging employees in wellness strategies?

SA: Companies have a lot of power – both within AND outside of the corporation.

Within the corporation, they decide what the corporate culture will be. Outside, they decide what ideals to support through their channel partners and resource suppliers.

At this point, we have seen the statistics proving that a healthy employee is a happy employee, and that healthy/happy employees are more productive. Companies know unequivocally that to invest in the health of their employees by supporting corporate wellness initiatives is the surest way to guarantee the highest levels of productivity, and therefore profitability, of the employee investment.

In my opinion, the other major way to retain a competitive edge is by providing services in an increasingly sustainable manner. Consumers are still consuming, but they are looking for ever-increasing ways to do so with less waste and less pollution. If your company is operating from a perspective of total wellness and health, then it will be doing so with a global perspective. This is where the true change, inspiration, progress and reward come into play.

Get more information or register for the 2015 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit online.

WellCert Level 1: A Must for All Employee Wellness Professionals

Wellness-Indiana-LogoYour wellness career didn’t come with an instruction manual. Let’s face it, creating sustained behavior change is hard.

Professionals like you need specialized skills to create effective wellness programs for the organizations they serve. We are passionate about empowering wellness professionals with the tools they need to succeed. That’s why we’re bringing you WellCert.

WellCert Level 1, Certified Wellness Program Coordinator (CWPC) is a professional certification training course with a unique skill-focus that ensures graduates can immediately put their knowledge to work on the job. Designed by Chapman Institute founder Larry S. Chapman MPH, WellCert synthesizes 40+ years of experience with over 1,000 organizations.

WHAT: WellCert Level 1 Certified Wellness Program Coordinator (CWPC) training course
WHEN: October 29-30, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
WHERE: Indiana Chamber Conference Center
– Worksite wellness professionals
– Presidents, CEOs, CFOs and COOs
– Brokers
– Benefit managers
– Wellness committee members
– Human resource staff
PRICE: $1,350, Wellness Council member price: $1,050 with code WI-Member-15

Drawing from best-practice solutions and proven industry research, WellCert provides the skills needed to plan, implement, manage and measure employee wellness programs that improve health and reduce employee costs. Register for the October course today to ensure you’re well-equipped with cutting-edge expertise to create programs that deliver results.

Defying – Not Glorifying – Stereotypes

Every once in a while, something really fires me up. Today’s trigger is about misconceptions regarding women engineers.

First, there’s the words of wisdom (insert heavy sarcasm) of Nobel Peace Prize winner Tim Hunt. This summer, he declared – at the World Conference of Science Journalists – that labs should be segregated by sex. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he reportedly mused. “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry!”

Shameful, indeed. It reminded me of another recent high-profile controversy, this time involving Isis Wenger. The brilliant OneLogin platform engineer unwittingly found herself at the center of a firestorm when she posed for a recruiting photo.

To both the company and Wenger’s surprise, what got people talking about the campaign wasn’t the image of its security engineer wearing a black hat and hackers shirt … Instead, it was the photo of Wenger. TechCrunch reported a taste of what people had to say about it:

“This is some weird haphazard branding. I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes. Perhaps that’s the intention all along. But I’m curious people with brains find this quote (appearing on Wenger’s shirt) remotely plausible if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like. Idk. Weird.”

And here’s what another guy said:

“If their intention is to attract more women, then it would have been a better to choose a picture with a warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk. …”

To change the way people think about engineers, Wenger started the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

“#ILookLikeAnEngineer is intentionally not gender specific,” Wenger says. “External appearances and the number of X chromosomes a person has is hardly a measure of engineering ability. My goal is to help redefine “what an engineer should look like” because I think that is a step towards eliminating sub-conscious bias towards diversity in tech.”

Wenger’s hashtag has inspired women to post their own photos illustrating that they also “look like an engineer.”

You go, ladies!

Sen. Coats to Share Powerful Insights at Mary Tucker Jasper Series on Oct. 2

dan_coats2Sen. Dan Coats recently announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate following an esteemed career representing Hoosiers in Washington, D.C.

If you’d like to hear him speak before he exits the Senatorial stage, Coats will be the featured speaker at the Mary Tucker Jasper Series at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis on Friday, Oct. 2.

The series, which recognizes outstanding civic engagement and exceptional public leadership, is the signature event of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site — and 2015 marks its 10th anniversary. Over the past decade it’s featured a wide array of nationally recognized speakers, including Brian Lamb, Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith. (The series was established through a generous gift from the Mary Tucker Jasper family in 2005.)

Event Details

Tickets range from $155 (dinner) to $200 (dinner and VIP reception)

5:30-6:30 p.m.: VIP Reception with Sen. Coats in the Columbian Suite
6 p.m.:  Cocktail hour
7 p.m.: Welcome and dinner in the ballroom
8 p.m.: Powerful insights from Sen. Coats

Tickets are limited, and are only available until the end of the day Monday, Sept. 21. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear an accomplished statesman as he prepares to leave office! Register online or call Ashleigh Graves-Roesler at (317) 631-1888 for more information.

Jobs Numbers You Need to Know

rThe National Conference of State Legislatures breaks down some recent job statistics and trends. A few of the numbers:

  • 5 million new workers in health care from 1997 to 2012
  • 77.5% — growth in the mining industry in that same time period
  • 157 million – number of people 16 and over in the nation’s labor force in June 2015
  • 15 million – number of female workers 16 and over in service occupations in 2013 male workers numbered 11.6 million
  • 86.1 – percentage of full-time, year-round workers ages 18 to 64 with health insurance during all or part of 2013
  • 76.4 – percentage of workers who drove alone to work in 2013
  • 25.8 – average time in minutes it took workers to commute to their jobs in 2013
  • 4.4 – percentage who worked from home in 2013

Where Americans are Headed on Vacation This Fall

9809397Travel Leaders Group provides frequent updates on current trends through comprehensive surveys of its travel agents.

A few findings from the most recent outreach:

  • New York City is the most popular domestic destination for the remainder of 2015
  • Caribbean cruises lead the way internationally
  • For clients age 30 and under, the top reasons/destinations for travel are honeymoons, Caribbean and Mexico

Additional details from the survey:

“Based on actual bookings, New York made a remarkable leap over perennial top destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando. It is an incredibly vibrant, world-class city for leisure and business travelers alike. From the fall right through the holidays, it’s nothing short of spectacular,” states Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben. “In addition, the data we have collected indicates travel will continue to be strong for the remainder of the year, which is leading to incredible optimism among our travel agent specialists.”

Following New York, the top domestic destinations being booked were Orlando, Maui, Las Vegas, Alaska cruises (maybe some of these are for 2016 travel), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Internationally, following cruises are Cancun, London, European cruise, Rome, Paris, Mediterranean cruise, Dominican Republic, Florence and/or Tuscany (Italy) and Montego Bay (Jamaica).

Fewer Are Taking the Start-Up Route

Lower unemployment is just one of the factors a declining number of Americans are looking at starting their own businesses.

In the first half of 2015, an average of 5.1% of job seekers decided to begin a new business, according to global outplacement and coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

CEO John A. Challenger notes, “While many Americans love the idea of being their own boss, we consistently find that 95% of those who are in-between jobs do not take that route. Most don’t even consider it to be a viable option and those who do contemplate entrepreneurship often conclude that the risks are too numerous and significant to pursue.”

The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly 5.2 million Americans were hired in June 2015. Furthermore, there were still more than 5.2 million unfilled job openings at the end of the month.

But it takes more than just industry knowledge to pursue entrepreneurship. Challenger offers some of the other necessities required for those considering a start-up venture.

A Plan
Having a plan can help the would-be entrepreneur map out his or her vision. It does not have to be the 50- to 70-page formal plan taught in MBA programs. It can just be a few pages. Though something more detailed and formal might be required when it comes time to seek funding from banks or investors. The key benefit of the plan is that helps to focus one’s efforts.

A survey of more than 800 people in the process of starting businesses by the University of Michigan found those who wrote a plan were two and a half times more likely to actually go into business.

It takes money to make money, as they say. Not only is there the initial investment associated with starting a business, whether it is buying computers or business cards, but the fact is that it could take several months before the new business makes any money.
Unless one is trying to get a business up and running while holding down another full-time or part-time job, which is an entirely different challenge altogether, substantial savings are absolutely necessary to make up for the loss of income that occurs during the initial phases of the start-up.

The reason it would be challenging to start a business while holding down a traditional job is that most new businesses require a substantial amount of time to get up and running. Entrepreneurs can expect to log 60 to 80 hours a week in the first two years.

The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs coming from a traditional workplace may be the lack of a manager giving you tasks and deadlines. Especially for those working from home, there are a lot of distractions that can pull your attention away from the task at hand. Some would say that telecommuters face the same challenge. However, they are still accountable to a supervisor, so there is more motivation to stay focused on work.
Until a new entrepreneur has that first customer, who then provides the motivation to set and meet deadlines, the only person an entrepreneur must answer to is himself. So, are you going to do the work necessary to find that first customer or fix that leaky faucet? If the faucet takes precedence, you may need to rethink entrepreneurship.

Strong Sales Skills
Regardless of the primary skills you are ultimately plan to provide through your new venture, whether it’s financial planning consulting or cupcakes, the first order of business is to get customers. In order to do that, you need to be a salesperson. As an entrepreneur, you should expect to spend 75% or more of your time on sales as the business is getting off the ground.

If you do not feel comfortable selling, your business is probably doomed before it even begins. No business can succeed without sales. A strong sales commitment is necessary, especially in the first 12 to 24 months.