This is the first article of a three part series on the future of unincorporated White River Township. In this article we define what constitutes an unincorporated island. In Part Two we examine how much of WRT could become an unincorporated island. Part Three looks at how they form and why we should care.
What is an unincorporated area or “island”? Simply put an unincorporated island is an area within a county that is not a part of a city or town. Unincorporated areas receive their services from the county. Residents who live in these areas do not pay a city tax. Here is a further explanation.
In the table is a breakout illustrating how property taxes are calculated. Notice the highlighted City tax rate. Those of us in unincorporated White River Township (WRT) do not pay a city tax. This is because we do not live in the city nor do we receive any services from one.
Since 1999 WRT has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, nearly 80% of the residential building permits issued by the county during this time were in WRT. Recognizing that county government is not designed to handle this type of urban growth, in 2007, a few concerned citizens commissioned a group of students from IU, led by Professor Friga, to conduct a study to determine the options for unincorporated WRT. Three main options were reviewed by the IU team:
1.) Annexation into surrounding communities.
2.) Form the town of Center Grove.
3.) Do nothing.
A fourth option, re-organization or merger was explored in 2009, but we will leave that discussion for others.
The team found that two of these options would lead to the same logical conclusion; the formation of “unincorporated islands”. Both the “annexation” and the “do nothing” options will ultimately result in what is known as selective annexation. In a selective annexation, cities and towns choose the areas they want to annex, which largely consist of the more desirable commercial areas.
Selective annexation leaves nearby residential communities with continued reliance on the county for their services. The only option that prevents unincorporated islands from forming within WRT is to form the town of Center Grove.
The study concluded that it would be more advantageous to incorporate as an entire community rather than subject the area to selective annexations, which would lead to unincorporated island. Those areas become increasingly costly for the county to support and based on cases we have reviewed from other areasnfequently result in tax increase for those residents with no additional local control.
What are unincorporated islands? We will cover that topic in the next article.