ANDERSON — The Madison County Council has defeated an effort to raise the local income tax for public safety that was being sought by criminal justice system officials.
The council on Tuesday voted 4-3 against the proposed 0.3% increase in the income tax that also would have needed to be approved by a majority of the county’s city and town councils for adoption.
The council did adopt the .2% income tax increase to fund construction of a new jail, 5-2.
Council members Mikeal Vaughn and Fred Reese voted against that tax increase that will take effect in January.
That tax will generate an estimated $5.4 million that will fund construction of a new jail with an estimated cost of $85 million.
Vaughn said he has talked with members of the General Assembly about raising the jail construction tax to 0.4% in the future.
Councilman Anthony Emery said the legislature is not going to raise a tax for one county.
Council President Ben Gale said the council will have to find the rest of the jail construction money in the future.
Emery asked where the council will obtain half of the defeated 0.3% tax increase to cover any shortfall in future bond payments.
Several members of the criminal justice system spoke in favor of adopting the public safety tax at the higher 0.3% rate.
Keith Gaskill with the Anderson Police Department said local departments are having problems retaining and recruiting new officers because of the higher pay available at other departments and better equipment.
Holly Renz, a nurse, said she supported the tax increase because of the needs in the Madison County prosecutor’s office when it comes to child abuse cases.
“Our county has the highest rate of child abuse per capita in Indiana.”
Renz said the prosecutors are dealing with a high caseload, stress and not receiving enough pay.
“Do what you know is best for the safety of our community,” she said.
Mike Anderson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union, said officers throughout Madison County need the resources to do their jobs efficiently.
He said in the 1990s, the city of Anderson would have 300 applicants for jobs with the police department.
Anderson said the city is trying to fill six positions in the department and received only five applicants.
Sheriff Scott Mellinger said public safety needs more funding.
He said the county sends the state’s third highest number of inmates to the Indiana Department of Correction.
“We’re doing a good job of protecting people and property,” Mellinger said. “But the county and cities and towns are taking money from other departments to fund public safety.
“Nobody wants to raise taxes,” he said. “You’re toughest decision is to do the right thing.”
Council members Jerry Alexander, Diana Likens, Fred Reese and Vaughn voted against passage.
Likens asked if it was possible to reduce the proposed tax rate from 0.3% to 0.15%, but was told that would start the process anew.
As of Tuesday, only the Pendleton Town Council voted to adopt the higher 0.3% rate.
With the defeat by the County Council, the possible 0.3% increase will not be adopted in 2021.
Jail consultant Jack Krouse said an increase in the public safety income tax will have to be passed by next May before the bonds for construction of the jail are sold to insure payment to borrowers.
The vote followed more than an hour of debate about the proposed tax increase that would have generated $8 million for local governmental entities.