The Herald Bulletin

June 21, 2013

Local governments prepare for long season of budget writing

Property tax draw due next week

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Summer officially began early Friday morning which, as it happens, also means county and municipal officials throughout Indiana are breaking out the pencil sharpeners to begin writing budgets for 2014.

Madison County is no exception.

Seems early, you might think, but it's not. Really.

Next week, local governments will receive the first of two property tax draws for the year, which will be used as the baseline from which to project revenue for 2014.

Local governments collect an alphabet soup of taxes — the County Option Income Tax, (COIT), Local Option Income Tax, (LOIT), County Economic Development Income Tax, (CEDIT), sales tax and more — but the single largest source of revenue used to finance local government operations is still property taxes.

Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said last week that many of the issues the city confronted when cobbling together this year's budget last fall, such as police and fire department layoffs, will remain land mines as officials begin looking ahead to 2014.

City Controller Sam Pelligreno said he won't know until next week exactly how much property tax revenue the city will receive in this draw and didn't want to make predictions on Friday.

On one hand, he knows the Madison County Council's decision last month to reinstate the wheel tax after a one-year hiatus will provide the city with additional revenue for road paving and maintenance projects.

On the other hand, however, $1.8 million in revenue from a commissioner's property sale won't materialize. A sale in March yielded just $410,000, Pelligreno said. About half of that will come to Anderson.

Some county government departments have already begun writing their proposed budgets, which eventually will be submitted to the Board of County Commissioners and County Council. In addition, the council agreed to hire financial consultant Jim Steele to assess they county's financial standing.

Former County Councilman Mike Phipps reportedly offered to provide that financial analysis for free, but a majority of council Republicans and Democrats alike were uncomfortable with that. They wanted an independent assessment because Phipps was so heavily involved with writing this year's county budget.

In Pendleton, Town Council President Don Henderson said he doesn't expect any budgetary surprises to arise in the year ahead.

"What I'm pleased with here is we've been pretty well on track," Henderson said. "We're not operating in the red and we have no major bond issues. We're in about as good a shape as I think we could be in."

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