County Council delays action on income tax increase

·3 min read

Sep. 15—ANDERSON — A decision on increasing two local option income taxes has been delayed by the Madison County Council.

The council voted 5-2 Tuesday to table for one month a proposal to increase the local option income tax by 0.5% to a possible rate of 2.25% starting in 2022. Council members Rob Steele and Diana Likens cast the no votes.

Several local residents voiced opposition to the tax increases, stating it was not the right time.

Under the proposal, the council is considering a 0.2% increase in the income tax that would generate approximately $5.4 million on an annual basis to pay for the construction of a new jail.

It is also proposing a 0.3% increase in the public safety income tax rate for a dual purpose. One is to cover any shortfalls in being able to make the new jail's projected annual bond payment; the second is to provide up to $8 million to pay the cost of the criminal justice system.

If approved, local cities and towns will get a share of the $8 million.

Councilman Anthony Emery made the motion to table a vote until Oct. 12 to allow for more public input on the proposed tax increase.

"I want to give the public a little more time to respond," he said. "This is a tough decision, but taxes are a necessary part of our society to pay for government services."

Andrew Hanna, chief deputy in the prosecutor's office, said the 0.2% correctional tax rate can be passed anytime before the end of the year and take effect in 2022.

He said the public safety income tax increase has to be passed by Oct. 31 to take effect and requires votes by the city and town councils.

Hanna said local units of government have 30 days to vote once the first adopting ordinance is passed.

County Council President Ben Gale said the Pendleton Town Council is scheduled to vote on the public safety tax increase Sept. 29.

Local resident Jim Janes said the county is spending too much money on the criminal element in Madison County.

"Money is not the solution," he said. "The tax burden is getting pretty heavy."

Anderson resident Rob Jozwiak said people in government have wanted a new jail for a long time.

He said the majority of the crimes are drug related and that there is a drug problem in Madison County.

"If we eliminate the drugs, we won't need a new jail," Jozwiak said. "Leadership in Madison County has failed."

Resident Lee Walls said companies are being provided tax abatements, and the people are paying the increased taxes.

"Our economy is not in good shape," he said. "People have lost jobs. Now is not the time to raise taxes."

Resident Kristi Grabowski said she was opposed to any tax increase and that now is not the right time.

Sheriff Scott Mellinger said the current jail was constructed in 1984, and the life span for a jail is 30 years.

"We have been 30 percent to 50 percent over capacity since 1992," he said. "This jail was built because of a federal lawsuit. If the federal courts take over the project, it will cost the county millions of dollars more."

Mellinger said 35 of the 50 correctional officers have worked for the county for less than one year, and that turnover is a problem.

"They leave because of the salary and a failing structure.

There is never a good time to raise taxes," Mellinger said. "But it's past time to do this project (jail) and to raise revenues to properly fund public safety."

Councilman Jerry Alexander said the council is considering raising taxes before a jail study committee has been formed.

"We've not asked one expert if the current jail can be raised to a higher standard," he said. "Can the current jail be expanded?

"The people driving this are expecting to get more money in their paychecks or for their departments."

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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