Bartholomew County looks to fund jail needs

The Bartholomew County Council will likely take advantage of a change in state law that allows counties to retain a portion of local income taxes to dedicate to their jails.

The change in the law, which went into effect on July 1, allows counties take up to 0.2 percent of the LIT and apply it towards jail needs. County Council President Mark Gorbett says the change came about after counties continued to see rising expenses and diminishing revenues. He pointed to the growing number of tax-increment financing (TIF) districts that allow cities to capture all of the LIT revenue for the area, lowering revenue for counties. The city of Columbus recently chose to capture all of the tax dollars in its TIF districts. Gorbett also cited the recent change in state law that requires low-level felons to be housed in county jails instead of with the Indiana Department of Corrections as another major expense for the county.

If the county council approves the maximum amount, the change will take effect in 2019 and is expected to allow the county to keep an estimated $2.7 million per year instead of passing it along to other entities. This would reduce the distribution to other taxing units in the county, with the city of Columbus taking the biggest hit. Figures provided to the council by Umbaugh & Associates show the city’s distribution reduced by nearly $2.5 million per year.

Barb Hackman, county auditor, explains that this is not an additional tax. It is merely a change in the distribution of tax-dollars that go to local units of government. Based on this year’s figures, the city of Columbus and towns throughout Bartholomew County will see a hit to their revenue:

Columbus – an estimated loss of $2,476,226
Edinburgh – an estimated loss of $108,850
Hope – an estimated loss of $26,719
Hartsville – an estimated loss of $1,914
Clifford – an estimated loss of $966
Elizabethtown – an estimated loss of $916
Jonesville – an estimated loss of $705

The council voted to move forward with a plan to ask the state for permission to capture the maximum amount of the Correctional and Rehabilitation Facilities Expenditure Rate. This change is not a done deal as it requires approval at the state level. In addition, the change requires the county council to hold a public hearing. That hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 11.