Ex-trustee Teising's residence is relevant to her voting and property taxes

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Wabash Township's ex-trustee Jennifer Teising made an issue out of her residency during her appeals of her January 2022 theft convictions — an issue that's pending before the Indiana Supreme Court. But now her residency might be an issue again for reasons unrelated to her pending appeal.

Teising's residency is relevant because of election integrity and credible property taxation.

If she resides at her Vincennes house that she inherited, she might have voted illegally in the fall 2022 elections.

If her residence is in West Lafayette, it appears she might be receiving tax benefits that she is not entitled to receive.

Teising inherits her mother's house

Teising took possession of an inherited a house at 803 Shelby St. in Vincennes. She inherited the house from her mother, who died Dec. 1, 2021, according to the public documents for the transfer.

On the transfer document, Teising's address is listed as 132 Knox Drive in West Lafayette, which is where she claimed to live while she was trustee. But the Knox County property records indicate Teising's address is the Shelby Street house.

A Gannett photographer found Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising's travel trailer and Teising on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Camper's Inn  RV Park in Panama City Beach, Fla. Many question Teising's residency since she sold her West Lafayette home in June.
A Gannett photographer found Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising's travel trailer and Teising on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Camper's Inn RV Park in Panama City Beach, Fla. Many question Teising's residency since she sold her West Lafayette home in June.

If she resided in Knox County after taking possession of the property, it affects where she could vote in the fall 2022 election.

If she resides in West Lafayette, it affects her property taxes in Knox County.

Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush said earlier this month that Indiana State Police asked her office about Teising's records.

Indiana State Police Lafayette Post Sgt. Jeremy Piers said, "I can neither confirm nor deny any active ongoing investigation."

The Journal & Courier contacted Teising's attorney, Karen Celestino-Horseman, for comment about Teising's residency as it relates to her voting and her property taxes. The J&C also asked whether Teising rented the house in Vincennes. Celestino-Horseman said she will look into the J&C's inquiry. She has not yet replied to the questions.

The Journal & Courier telephoned Teising to ask where she resides. She did not return the call.

The West Lafayette address on the Vincennes property transfer document is the one Teising claimed as her residence during her trial and her appeals, even though she lived in her travel trailer parked most of the time during 2020 and 2021 in Anderson, Indiana, or Panama City Beach, Florida.

Teising is accused of theft for taking her trustee salary while not residing in the township. Indiana law requires township trustees to reside in the township. She was convicted in January 2022, and won her first appeal. It is now pending at the Indiana Supreme Court.

The issue before the Indiana Supreme Court in Teising's appeal is whether "reside in a township" is synonymous with claiming one's residence in a township while living outside of the township. The Supreme Court has not accepted the case or penned an opinion, but it heard oral arguments at the end of June.

More: Indiana Supreme Court hears arguments why it should accept case against Jennifer Teising

Homestead exemption

Teising's Vincennes house currently has a homestead exemption, according to Knox County records. A homestead exemption can only be received if the homeowner lives in the house that receives the exemption, according to Indiana law.

On the Knox County property records for 2022 and 2023, Teising is listed as the deeded owner. Her mailing address is listed as 803 Shelby St., Vincennes — not 132 Knox Drive, West Lafayette.

But the homestead exemption has not yet been removed from the previous owner, Teising's mother.

The homestead exemption and supplemental homestead deduction reduced the 2021 assessed value of Teising's house in Vincennes by $53,280 for the property taxes payable in 2022. Teising's 2021 gross assessed value of $72,000. The homestead exemption and supplemental homestead reduced the amount her net assessed value on which her property taxes are calculated by $18,720 for her 2022 tax liability.

For her 2022 assessment — which is payable in 2023 — her property's gross assessed value is $88,000.

With the homestead deductions, the 2022 net assessed is reduced to $27,950. Teising's tax liability exceeded Indiana's property tax caps that limits homeowners who live in their house to paying no more than 1% of the gross assessed value. With the property tax cap adjustment, Teising will pay $880 this year, plus $14.76 for a taxpayer approved referendum to exceed the tax caps.

The homestead exemptions, therefore, did not make a difference in how much property taxes she will pay in 2023.

If, however, Teising rents out the house on Shelby Street to tenants, her property taxes cannot exceed 2% of the gross assessed value. If she is renting the house, it changes the property tax configuration, and Teising might owe more money.

An employee in the Knox County Auditor's Office said that Teising has not applied for the homestead tax credit. Instead, the exemptions she received is from the previous owner's homestead credit. Because Teising did not take possession of the property until May 25, 2022, the assessment for the 2023 taxes — and its exemption — remains intact.

An employee in the Knox County Assessor's Office said there is no sales disclosure because it was inherited. Therefore, the homestead exemption will remain until they are informed that the exemptions are not merited.

The assessor's employee indicated they do not police homestead exemptions, indicating it is the property owner's responsibility to apply for — or remove — the exemption.

As of last week, the Knox County Assessor's Office has no indication from Teising about removing the homestead exemption status, so it is likely to continue for taxes payable in 2024 unless Teising files to remove the exemption, the employee in the assessor's office said.

Additionally, if Teising is renting, the employee at the assessor's office said the property owner is supposed to inform them of the change from an owner-occupied house to a rental. The assessor's office also does not police whether a house is a rental, but if they learn that it is, they will change the property if they confirm it is not owner-occupied, the assessor employee said.

Teising was late with her fall 2022 tax payment, which she made up in the spring 2023 payment, including a penalty, according to records from Knox County. She also paid a $163.58 sewer lien that was filed in August 2023. She currently is caught up until the November tax deadline, according to Knox County public records.

Teising's voting records

Teising took possession of her inherited house in May 2022. Her property deed transfer documents signed by her uncle, who was the representative for the estate, claimed Teising's address on May 25, 2022, was in West Lafayette, and the tax statements were to be mailed to the West Lafayette address.

Knox County records list Teising's address as 803 Shelby St., Vincennes.

Teising voted in person at the Tippecanoe County Building on Oct. 31, 2022 — more than five months after taking possession of the Vincennes property, according to Tippecanoe County voting records and Knox County property records.

She has not amended her voter registration information, according to public information, so for voting purposes, her address is still in West Lafayette.

Reach Ron Wilkins at rwilkins@jconline.com. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Ex-trustee residence is relevant to her voting and her property taxes