County officials consider taking back revenue from city, towns

The Bartholomew County Council is considering plans to take advantage of a change in state law that allows counties to retain a larger portion of local income taxes — taking it back from other governments in the county.

The change, which went into effect on July 1st, lets counties take a portion of the local income tax revenue 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 districts that allow redevelopment commissions  to capture all of the increasing property tax revenue for the area, lowering revenue for counties. 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. That has turned into another major jail expense for the county.

The city of Columbus would take the biggest hit. Figures provided to the council by Umbaugh & Associates show the city’s revenue would be reduced by about $2.4 million per year, while county revenues would go up $2.7 million. Other towns and townships would also see a decrease. Edinburgh would lose about $82,739, Hope would lose $50,017 and Columbus Township would lose $37,687. The change, if approved, would take effect in 2019.

The council members discussed the possible change at this week’s County Council work session, having an animated discussion about whether or not to take advantage of this change in the law. Citing the TIF districts and increased public safety needs, council members said they were in favor of moving forward with the maximum amount allowable. Gorbett stressed that this is a responsible way to serve the needs of all county residents without raising taxes.

The county council is expected to address the issue again at its meeting next week. The County Council meets on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Governmental Office building on Third Street in Columbus.