From: Kristen Brown
A review of local elected officials’ actions this year can be summed up as follows: Generous taxpayer-funded pay raises and benefits for themselves and a crushing and unjustified increase in taxes for the rest of us.
The county council, with support from the commissioners, voted to increase our local income taxes a staggering 40 percent beginning in January. Then they rewarded themselves with a 3 percent pay raise beginning the same time. They also continued to give themselves very expensive health benefits afforded to only full-time employees even though they are part-time employees.
The city council, on the mayor’s recommendation, voted to increase our property taxes next year to the maximum allowed by state law and supported the county officials’ staggering increase in our income taxes because the city is the primary beneficiary of that tax increase. Then the city council rewarded themselves and the mayor with a 2 percent raise beginning the same time.
The rationale by the majority of our elected “Republican” officials is that the tax increases are necessary to compensate for “lost” tax revenues due to actions of the Indiana Legislature.
The tax increases’ most vocal proponent, County Auditor Barb Hackman, who ironically is the chair of the local Republican Party, has been painting an alarming picture of county finances and pointing her finger at the property tax caps ever since she assumed the auditor’s office nine years ago.
Hackman’s hyperbole of the county’s financial Armageddon has been well-reported by The Republic, but the facts, given little ink, tell a completely different story.
The tax caps only cost the county about $800,000 annually in revenue. And this is not a decrease in revenue. The county’s property tax revenue is basically flat. When our elected officials describe a revenue “loss” they mean a decrease to an increase in taxes.
To make up for this annual “loss” of $800,000, the county council increased income taxes 25 percent starting in 2010. That increase has resulted in an additional $5,600,000 dollars in income taxes annually, split almost entirely between the city and county.
Starting in 2013, the Legislature eliminated the inheritance tax, decreasing the county’s revenues by $160,000 a year.
However, starting in 2017, the Legislature increased the gas tax, increasing the county’s revenue by $1,300,000 a year.
Dissatisfied with these changes, netting the county an increase of more than $1,000,000 a year, elected officials increased our income taxes another 40 percent starting in January. This gives local government, primarily the city and county, $11,300,000 in tax revenue a year. Such a huge windfall that neither the city nor county has a plan to spend it.
With this tax increase and the increase beginning in 2010, our local officials have callously and irresponsibly increased our income taxes by roughly $17,000,000 annually while other tax revenues have never declined.
Our pockets are only so deep regardless of how worthy our community is of investment. It truly is “Unexpected. Unforgettable.” But the new price tag to live here is totally “Unjustified. Unreasonable.”