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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Supreme Court Affirms Sewer Assessment Case (Armour v. Indianapolis)

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the sewer assessment case reported previously on this blog, Armour v. City of Indianapolis, No. 11-161 (June 4, 2012).  The Court upheld the City's decision to forgive the balance owing for homeowners who had not fully paid the assessement, while not issuing refunds to their neighbors who had already paid in full.

The court first determined that since there were no suspect classifications involved, the City's decision to modify the assessment policy was subject to rational basis.  As discussed previously, Indiana state law (the Barrett Law) authorized cities to assess the cost of sewer improvement projects on properties that benefitted from the project.  The statute permitted lot owners to choose to pay the assessment either (1) immediately in the form of a lump sum or (2) by installments. 

In 2005, the Indianapolis adopted a new assessment and payment method, the "STEP Plan", and it forgave any Barrett Law installments that lot owners had not yet paid.  A group of lot owners who had paid their entire assessment in a lump sum sued the City, claiming they should have been provided equivalent refunds. The Court upheld the City's "STEP Plan," concluding that the City had a rational basis for distinguishing between the lot owners who had already paid their share of project costs and those who had not; consequently, there was no equal protection violation.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.  

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