Supreme Court upholds ruling to not issue refunds in sewer dispute

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Monday, stating the city did not violate the equal protection clause.

Stock photo

Stock photo (June 4, 2012)

Indianapolis

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision by the Indiana Supreme Court to not refund taxes to Indianapolis homeowners who sought the refunds when the city changed their payment plans for a new sewer line.

Homeowners on the northwest side of Indianapolis had to pay for hook-ups, when the city switched from septic tanks to sanitary sewers in the Northern Estates neighborhood back in 2001.  Residents were given the option to pay the full amount at once or pay on an installment plan. 

However, in 2005, city officials lowered the fees but did not issue refunds to homeowners who already paid the full amount. Those homeowners complained the disparate treatment violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The homeowners sued and a trial court ruled in the residents’ favor.  However, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned the decision, later sending the case to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Monday, stating the city did not violate the equal protection clause.

In his majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer stated the city was correct and acted rationally when changing the payment plan, because it wanted to reduce its administrative issues of debt collection.  Breyer ruled that after the change, collecting unpaid debts would have been “complex and expensive.”

Click here to read the Supreme Court’s ruling in its entirety.  

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