By Thomas B. Langhorne, Evansville Courier & Press

The local tax base will take a hit because of the Whirlpool Corp. closing next year, but it was unclear Friday whether the blow will be a jab or a haymaker.

The loss of 1,100 jobs will depress Vanderburgh County's revenue from county-option income taxes paid by workers, a tax heavily dependent on employment levels.

Indiana residents pay income taxes based on where they live, not where they work. Vanderburgh County imposes the maximum possible county-option income tax of 1 percent of an individual's taxable income.

Whirlpool employees who live in Vanderburgh County or any other county that imposes a county-option income tax pay the rate imposed by the county where they reside. Employees who live in counties without the tax pay a nonresident rate of one-fourth that amount.

But Whirlpool spokeswoman Debby Castrale said Friday she did not have information about the company's combined payroll in Vanderburgh County or how many employees live here.

The Indiana Office of Management and Budget could not obtain the information, and County Treasurer Rick Davis said he was unable to get the data from the Department of Revenue on Friday.

"You'd need to know how many of their employees live in Vanderburgh County, their average hourly salary and then multiply that by 1 percent or one-quarter of 1 percent, depending on where they live," Davis said.

"If you were to get Whirlpool's payroll and multiply it by 1 percent, you would be over, but you wouldn't be over by much."

A statement of benefits filed by Whirlpool with the city's Department of Metropolitan Development in 2003 provided some possible clues about its current payroll. The company estimated it would retain 2,000 employees with combined annual salaries of almost $72 million if it received a tax abatement.

Vanderburgh County's total county-option income tax receipts already are expected to dip next year from more than $37 million this year to slightly more than $35.4 million.

Other pieces of the local tax puzzle for Whirlpool are easier to discern.

The Vanderburgh County Treasurer's Office reports the Whirlpool plant on U.S. 41 North comprises four separate real estate parcels and equipment on which the company separately pays the county real estate and personal property taxes.

The four parcels have a combined assessed value of almost $16 million. The equipment is assessed at a total of $53,135,550.

In the 2008-pay-2009 tax cycle, Whirlpool was billed $1,632,364.90 in total Vanderburgh County property taxes. The company paid half that amount on the spring installment, and it is not otherwise delinquent on its taxes.

"Unless they sell (the plant), they're still going to own it despite it being in production or not," said County Assessor Jonathan Weaver.

"So, they will owe taxes. The value may decline based on the concept of market value-in-use. If (Whirlpool is) not making refrigerators or whatever it's tooled to do, the value will decline because it's not tooled to, say, make cars."

Castrale said selling the plant is Whirlpool's "No. 1 priority" in the coming months.

Davis said Whirlpool employees who wish to set up payment plans for fall or 2009-pay-2010 property taxes may do so by calling his office at (812) 435-5436.

The plant's closing will have a noticeable effect on property tax revenues for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. starting in 2011, said Margaret Conway, chief financial officer.

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