Council opts out of Local Option Income Tax

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

State uncertainty about property tax relief had led the Putnam County Council to vote down a Local Option Income Tax.

At least for now.

The council has considered implementing LOIT, which offers some property tax replacement with a two-year freeze on some tax increases, an income tax increase for local wage-earners, and a special tax for public safety. The council tabled adoption of that tax in September and October, stating that action by state legislators could resolve the high property tax issue.

As of Tuesday's county council meeting, however, the state is still working on property tax relief.

So that left the council with the decision of either tabling the local issue again, or going to a vote.

"My concern is if we vote this down, and the state legislature does nothing, then we have not solved any property tax problem," council member Keith Berry said.

But counties who do not adopt LOIT will be allowed to reconsider it in 2008, auditor Stephanie Campbell assured the council.

Between March 31 and Aug. 1 next year, the council can choose to enact a local option income tax, she said.

Attorney Elizabeth South confirmed for council members Berry, Don Walton, Roger Deck, Darrel Thomas, Mitch Proctor, Larry Parker and Jay Fogle that once the uncertainty at the state level is over, the council can revisit the issue if necessary.

The council was looking at the total LOIT amount of 1.55 percent, or $1.55 for every $100 of income a person earns. Putnam County income earners already pay $1.50 per $100 of income for the county's Economic Development Income Tax. Adding LOIT would take the amount of local income taxes to $3.05 per $100 of adjusted gross income.

Meanwhile, in other business, the council:

* Approved a request from the Health Department to allow payments to be made by credit/debit cards. Office manager Beth Glaze stated the office often gets requests to pay for documents, permits or fees with credit or debit cards. She also noted that there are some food establishments that still have fines to pay by the end of the year before their food permit is re-issued for next year, and they could pay their fines via credit cards. There will be no cost to the health department to offer the service, but customers will have to pay $2.50 per transaction.

* Granted tentative approval for a salary ordinance change to hire a new public health nurse for the health department.

* Approved a request from the Treasure's Office to transfer $3,000 from the repairs and maintenance fund to the part-time help fund to make it through the year.

* Granted an additional appropriation of $86,634 for the aviation commissioner to use grant money.

* Approved an additional appropriation of $1,000 for a salary increase for Greencastle Township Assessor Lorie Hallett, who received completed her Level II Assessor appraisal certification.

* Heard that highway department funding from from use taxes such as the gasoline tax and wheel tax. The council approved a $25,000 additional appropriation for stone for road maintenance, and a $100,000 additional appropriation for road resurfacing and paving. In Major Moves funding, the county will receive $98,635 to pay for road improvement supplies.

* Heard that the updated county comprehensive plan will get a tentative review Thursday, Nov. 29 at the courthouse annex. That meeting is open to the public.

* Learned that a committee is being formed to consider courthouse security. Council member Fogle volunteered to serve on that group. Judge Matthew Headley told the council the committee is looking for ways to make the courthouse safer for the public and county employees.

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