Letter: Why must proposed tax increase be so hefty?

From: Mark Schneider


On Tuesday, the Bartholomew County Council is slated to raise our taxes and, as currently proposed, I am strongly against it.

This is a 40 percent tax increase that takes $11 million more annually out of taxpayers’ paychecks and increases the county budget by 20 percent. Over the next decade, this tax increase will generate $110 million to $125 million in additional tax revenue split between the county, city, and other taxing units.

Reasons cited for the tax increase, such as repairs to the courthouse, building a new highway department building, adding staff to the jail and fighting the heroin problem are not going to cost the county and city anywhere near that figure over the next decade.

The Republic reported in July that it will take “$12 million to renovate or replace deteriorating county facilities over the next decade.” Hiring seven additional people to staff the jail will cost $300k to 350k annually, or roughly $4 million over a decade. Another $20 million could be added to cover a $1.5 million annualized deficit spread over a decade and adjusted for inflation. On the absolute high end that is $36 million extended over 10 years.

Where, then, is the county and city going to spend the other $75 million to $90 million in new tax revenue over the next 10 years?

I am not a law enforcement expert, but I have a hard time imagining the heroin problem costing that much over the same period of time.

If taxes truly do need to be raised, of which I am skeptical of, why not raise taxes by 5 percent or 10 percent? Why 40 percent? Why such a large number?

If the courthouse is causing a $3 million short-term budget gap, and it is more cost-efficient in the long run to make the repairs all at once, why not make this tax increase for only a single year with a guarantee to return taxes to present rates? Why does this increase tax need to be permanent?

If the heroin and addiction problem is worse a few years down the line, will the council once again press for another tax increase?

New taxes never disappear. Money is not a solution to every problem. If taxes are going to be raised, we deserve to see where every single one of our dollars is going to be spent in both the near and long-term futures.

Instead of performing the difficult task of looking at ways to reallocate resources, lower or contain cost and saying no to huge budget increases, the county is taking the easy way out by raising our taxes.

Conservative governing requires those in power to carefully look after the taxpayers’ dollars, work within a budget and to not raise taxes. That is what the voters expect out of our elected officials.