County Leaders Justify New Income Tax
The Lake County Commission is supporting a county income tax, as two of three commissioners voted Friday to affirm the County Council’s decision to approve a new 1.5% county income tax. Commissioner Gerry Scheub was the dissenting member, “The state illegally froze our levy. The last seven years we’ve had a frozen levy, and had that not happened we would not be here today because we would have been financially stable.”
The Commission met for less than 20 minutes in a special meeting that endorsed the tax. Eric Krieg opposed the tax. “The issue is really that we still have the highest property taxes in Indiana. We still have all our debt put on top of the tax caps.”
When commissioners decided not to veto the County Council ordinance, the measure made Lake County the last county in the state to adopt a county income tax. Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, Jr., voted for the tax, “We become the 92nd county; we were the lone holdout. We’ve held out since 2007. We could no longer hold out because we were on the verge of insolvent. We were on the verge of becoming a bankrupt county.”
He says the natural growth options for Lake County have not been the same as Indiana’s other 91 counties have been during the last seven years. “We have made major cuts in our budgets. We’ve laid-off over 350 employees. We have consolidated and centralized a lot of our departments.”
Allen says the income tax will allow the county to meet requirements by the U.S. Department of Justice under federal court order. “We will have sufficient money for public service such as public fire, we will have sufficient money for our courts, and we will have sufficient money for our jail.”
The commissioners say the 1.5% breakdown has one percent, or $94-million, set aside for property tax credits while .25% of the tax, or about $22-million, will be used for public safety, and the remainder will be used to accelerate economic development across the county.