New capital improvement fund makes great sense

The ability to maintain Bartholomew County’s government buildings has always been constrained by the financial ability to fund repairs.

Elected county officials traditionally have opted for passing lean budgets and resisted enacting new taxes, which many taxpayers have appreciated. But that has made timely maintenance of county properties a challenge.

County officials recently learned how much overdue and anticipated repairs needed for county facilities will cost over the next decade: at least $12 million, according to an estimate presented by an engineering and architectural firm.

The estimate includes repair work on the Bartholomew County Courthouse and Veterans Memorial, and a new county highway garage.

That’s a big number, especially for a county that has experienced contentious budget negotiations over department needs versus a willingness and ability to spend.

The good news is that a reasonable option exists to generate funding to repair and maintain county buildings. Top Bartholomew County elected officials have finally determined that creating a taxing mechanism — the Cumulative Capital Improvement Fund — makes good business sense. We agree.

Based on rules set by state government, Bartholomew County is being backed into a corner to establish this new tax. It will cost the county money if it doesn’t. State lawmakers have withheld $680,000 in funds for bridge repairs, but will approve that funding if a Cumulative Capital Improvement Fund is established by the county.

There’s no better way to raise money to take care of maintaining county government buildings, and the impact on taxpayers is minimal. Taxes on all residential and business real estate would increase by .0166 cents per $100 of assessed valuation the first year, which would raise an estimated $600,000 to $700,000. The impact on homeowners would be $5.44 for a homeowner whose home was valued at $100,000, and $16.26 for a $200,000 home.

Efforts are underway by the commissioners to build the case for the tax and get the county council on board. One reason is that if the county does not enact a Cumulative Capital Improvement Fund by Aug. 1, it must wait another year to do so. That would be a costly decision.

Enacting the fund makes sense and will help the county be better stewards of its facilities.

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