Council approves local income tax

The Jackson County Council recently wrapped up the process of putting a local option income tax of one-half of 1 percent in place to help fund public safety services and reduce property taxes.

It’s anticipated half of that tax, which becomes effective Jan. 1, would create an estimated $1.2 million in revenue for the county and $1.3 million to $1.4 million for the city of Seymour. The county’s three towns, Brownstown, Crothersville and Medora, also would receive revenue from the tax also known as LOIT.

The other half, generating the same amounts, would be used to reduce property taxes for all owners of real estate.

The 0.005 rate would cost wage earners 5 cents of every $100 they make while on the job, and a person making $50,000 a year would pay about $10 more in state and local income taxes per two-week pay period than they are paying now. That could vary depending upon filing status.

An ordinance implementing the property tax relief part passed on second reading during a county council meeting Wednesday. The council had passed the public safety portion of the tax earlier in the month after a public hearing at the courthouse annex.

Councilman Brian Thompson said Thursday that the property tax relief portion of the new tax basically shifts some of the tax burden from property owners to everyone who earns a living in the county. It is more equitable, he said, because everyone uses public safety services in the county.

On Wednesday, the council also conducted the second of two daylong budget sessions. The budget, which contains a proposed general fund of about $11.7 million, is now set for adoption at 6 p.m. Oct. 19.

At day’s end, the 2017 budget still contained a 2 percent raise for county employees, two new jailers, a new police officer and money to hire a building inspector on contract.

Thompson said the new jailers and officers are the council’s way of addressing concerns by state inspectors about increasing inmate populations at the jail. Thursday’s inmate count at the 176-bed jail was 217.

That increase is in part spurred by an increase in crime related to drug use issues in the county, Thompson said, and that’s why a decision was made to add a police officer.

Those actions all relate to the ability to raise additional revenue through the public safety tax, he said.

That tax also allows the council to shift some other expenses out of the general fund, which in turn frees up money to address other issues, Thompson said.

One of those issues is reassessment. In the past, reassessment occurred once every four years, but in 2014, the state started requiring counties to reassess about 25 percent of each of its parcels every year.

The county presently contracts with a firm to handle assessment, but funds to pay for the work have been hard to come by, Thompson said. That problem will be fixed in the 2017 budget.

The need for a building inspector also came about because of federal regulations requiring new homes to be more energy efficient, Thompson said.

The council also plans to give Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel additional raises to keep their pay more in line with those in nearby counties, Thompson said.

The property tax relief portion would provide credits that would be split three ways between the owners of homesteads (owner-occupied homes); residential property, long-term care, agricultural property and other tangible property; and rental property and non-residential property.

The property tax relief also would vary depending upon where the property is located. A homeowner in Jackson Township with a home valued at $100,000, for instance, would see a decrease of about $40 a year on their property tax bill.

Jackson County now has three income taxes. The others are a county adjusted growth income tax with a rate of 1.60 percent and the county economic development income tax rate with a tax rate of 0.75 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Revenue.

After Wednesday’s meeting, the proposed general fund rate stood at about $11.73 million, up from this year’s certified general fund budget of $9.17 million. The final rate, however, likely will be less once final adjustments are made, county Auditor Kathy Hohenstreiter said Thursday morning.

Officeholders and department heads, however, initially had made general fund requests of $12.72 million for 2017.

At a glance

The Jackson County Council will consider final adoption of the 2017 budget at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 in the courthouse annex, 220 E. Walnut ST., Brownstown. This year’s certified budget and the advertised budget for 2017 follows:

Year;2016;2017

General fund;$9,174,564;$12,724,754

Reassessment;$239,450;$255,000

Local option income tax;NA;$1,000,000

Lease/rental payment;$278,000;$278,000

Highway;$3,327,393;$2,850,341

Local roads and streets;$375,000;$375,000

Cumulative bridge;$982,585;$703,714

Health;$534,722;$552,712

EMS-fire;$2,261,932;$2,575,867

Capital improvement bond;$700,225;$758,357

Cumulative capital development;$861,676;$1,032,139

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.