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Hamilton County Cities & Towns Consider Local Income Tax IncreaseAdditional Income to Fund Future 911 Communications
(NOBLESVILLE, SEPTEMBER 3, 2019) – Hamilton County and its eight cities and towns will soon vote on an ordinance that could increase the County’s local income tax (LIT) by 0.1-percentage-point. Money raised from the tax increase would help fund the County’s 911 center.
“For years the County and its four largest cities have funded the County’s 911 services,” County Commissioner Christine Altman explains. “The larger cities no longer want to absorb those costs, and while the smaller towns are willing to contribute something, they don’t have deep enough pockets to fund the full amount, so we need to find an alternative funding source.”
Hamilton County Public Safety Communications dispatches emergency calls for seven police departments, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, and nine fire and EMS departments. The agency took more than 300,000 emergency calls last year.
“Public safety is the most important service we provide to our residents,” Altman says. “I really don’t think this is a luxury.”
911’s current budget is just under $11 million a year. $3.6 million of that budget comes from a statewide user fee charged to telephone and mobile phone users. A new interlocal agreement renegotiated between the cities and the county this year requires the larger cities to fund $6.9 million dollars of the budget and the smaller cities to pick up $500,000. At the current time however, the small towns are paying 10% of that price tag, while the county funds the rest, approximately $440,000. The hope was that the smaller towns could phase 911 costs into their budgets, but those towns say they don’t have the revenue to make that happen.
That’s why the Arcadia Town Council adopted a Public Safety LIT Resolution for a potential 0.1-percentage-point tax increase at its last meeting. The adoption of that resolution now triggers a meeting of the LIT council, which is made up of representatives from each city and town in Hamilton County as well as the Hamilton County Council. If the tax is approved by enough members to constitute 50% of the County’s population, it becomes law. It would generate $16 million a year.
“The tax would not only cover countywide 911 costs, but it would also allow us to expand the communications center,” explains Jeff Schemmer, Hamilton County’s Executive Director of Communications. “The call center is currently housed in the basement of the Sheriff’s Office and is busting at the seams. We need to build a stand-alone building to better accommodate our growing population and burgeoning call load.”
Hamilton County’s income tax rate is currently one percent, the lowest in the region according to the Indiana Department of Revenue. Hancock County approved a similar LIT increase last year to cover the costs of its 911 center. If approved, the new tax would go into effect January 1.