County council should support proposed new tax for revenue stream

The Bartholomew County Council will have an important decision to make Tuesday when a proposed new property tax comes up for a vote.

A cumulative capital development tax is being considered to help with the county’s growing financial needs, such as paying for fixes and improvements to county-owned buildings. A consultant estimated that $12 million is needed in building renovations and new facilities over the next decade.

However, needs go beyond building repairs. For example:

  • The county jail is becoming more crowded, which increases danger and potential legal liability. The jail, which has a capacity of 249, had 226 inmates as of July 3.
  • Jail medical expenses are projected to be 39 percent greater this year compared to last year.
  • Two more public defenders are needed in the courts, according to a May commission finding.
  • About 20 more sheriff’s deputies are needed for public safety in order to meet state guidelines.

The proposed cumulative capital development tax was advertised at a rate of .0167 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for 2018. For a home assessed at $100,000 that takes normal deductions, the tax would equal an additional $5.44 paid per year. The impact on a home assessed at $200,000 would be $16.26 annually.

The council proposed the rate that it did so that it would raise only the $698,053 lost this year due to a change in state law that reduces income to counties that have not enacted the proposed tax. Of course, the advertised rate limits what it can do, and leaves open the possibility of other new taxes to fully meet the county’s needs.

Some residents have expressed to the council their opposition to the proposed cumulative capital development tax. They cite the fact that Hoosiers began paying dozens of new state taxes and fees beginning July 1, including a 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase. Opponents also cite the fact that the Columbus City Council approved last month its own cumulative capital development tax┬áto the maximum allowed by the state. Opponents say having all these taxes hitting at once will hurt taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

The impact on the pocketbook always is a concern for taxpayers. However, the county’s financial situation involves repairs or improvements to facilities that are overdue, such as $5 million for a new highway garage and $3 million for courthouse renovations. These are buildings used in providing daily services to residents — and residents want and need their daily services provided.

The county council has for years been cutting budgets, asking departments to maintain their services with less funding. However, there is only so much cutting and delaying of fixes possible. That method is not going to find the amount of money the county needs.

And while other new local and state taxes will impact residents, doing nothing isn’t a good option for the county council. Rejecting the proposed┬ácumulative capital development tax is only going to kick the problems down the road, likely making them even greater in the future. That’s not appealing.

The time has come for the county council to create a new revenue stream and approve the proposed┬ácumulative capital development tax at the advertised rate — if not greater.

If you go

What: Bartholomew County Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Council chambers on the fourth floor of the Government Office Building, third and Franklin streets, Columbus

Why: To vote on a proposed cumulative capital development tax