Council approves cumulative capital development fund rate increase in split vote

The Columbus City Council voted 5-3 to approve the second reading of an ordinance that slightly raises one of the city’s tax rates to help pay for public safety needs.

Council members Chris Bartels, Jay Foyst and Kent Anderson voted against the ordinance, as they did on first reading. Councilman Jerone Wood was absent.

City officials said most taxpayers wouldn’t notice much of a difference in their bill, but dissenting council members expressed apprehension at any raise in taxes given concerns about inflation and prices.

The vote re-establishes the cumulative capital development fund, with a rate set at $0.05 per $100 of assessed value, the maximum allowable by state law.

The new rate will be levied beginning in 2025. The rate had sat at $0.0465 per $100 of assessed value for the previous three years.

The fund, originally established in 1984, had been used for a variety of purchases, but primarily had been used to purchase equipment for public safety personnel, City Controller Regina McIntyre told council members.

Increasing the rate will provide for approximately $175,000 in funds per year to allow for more capital investments in public safety, city officials say.

McIntyre said the rate would often shrink in the past, necessitating another vote to re-establish the fund again to raise the rate back. Changes made in 2022 to Ind. Code § 6-1.1-41 ensure the rate will no longer fall in the future, so this will be the final time the council votes on the matter.

The ordinance includes a section that specifies the fund can only be use for public safety needs to qualm concerns from some council members that it could be use for other purposes.

The council had unanimously voted to table the first reading of the ordinance on April 16 so they could learn more about how the fund operates.

According to McIntyre, the increase would have a limited impact on taxpayers. Those with a 1% cap on their property taxes, described as average homeowners, will see virtually no change in their bill, although there are some homeowners that will see an impact of $2 per year.

The 2% group, made up of rental properties, would see zero impact, McIntyre said. However, the 3% group, consisting of commercial and industrial entities will be impacted.

“For example, a company with a $20 million assessed value currently pays about $500,000 annually in property tax, the impact of re-establishing the rate to this fund would increase that by $700,” McIntyre said on April 16.

City Council has frequently voted to re-establish the rate in the past, most recently in 2022, although Council President Frank Miller said the raise then didn’t actually occur because of rule changes that were going on at the time that amended the process for establishing or re-establishing cumulative funds.

Mayor Mary Ferdon acknowledged worries about inflation, saying the price for the types of public safety vehicles the fund would pay for continue to increase as well.

As an example, the mayor said the city is on a three-year plan to purchase another piece of fire apparatus that Columbus Fire Department Chief Andy Lay said costs more than $2 million.

“So with inflation, our cost of fire and police vehicles and equipment just continues to go up, and so moving the CCD rate to someplace where we don’t have to deal with it again—it’s money that we’re going to use because we’re going to continue to deal with the cost of those types of vehicles,” the mayor said earlier this month.