The Lake County Council has approved a county income tax proposal. In a split four-to-three vote Monday, the Council passed a 1.5% local option income tax plan that could take effect in 2015. Lake County’s Government Center auditorium began filling up nearly an hour before the meeting began with both supporters and opponents of the tax. A majority of the $90-million-dollar Lake County local option income tax proposal would raise would go to property tax relief, with .25% for public safety. Monday night Council member Eldon Strong told the crowd that he believes more budget cuts could eliminate the need for the tax. “Mr. President, a plan has been submitted which would consolidate government service locations.”
Public comment about the tax lasted nearly an hour before the Council vote, with residents and elected officials on both sides of the issue. The mayors of Gary and Hammond each say they support the tax. County Sheriff’s Deputy of Police, and Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor President, Dan Murchek also supports the tax. “This is about Lake County taking care of Lake County. I don’t want to pay another tax, but I do want my firehouse staffed. I do want someone to respond to my emergency calls, I want a police officer patrolling the streets and making sure my kid walks to school.”
Tax opponents, including Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, say the tax is unnecessary, with some people concerned the money will not be distributed properly, such as Eric Krieg, “The way that they set this up, people in your town will pay $10 and you will receive $1. This is taking money from south county to north county.”
The Council vote to approve the tax plan sent it to Lake County Commissioners for a vote.