New tax, loan may fund 911 software

Friday, March 20, 2015
Still a well-built, modern structure on the outside, the Putnam County Emergency Operations Center needs software upgrades on the interior in order for 911 Dispatch to continue to serve the county at a high level. (Photo by KYLE HOLLINGER)

Funding new software for Putnam County 911 Dispatch will take a little more than digging under the couch cushions.

The Putnam County Commissioners and Putnam County Council met in joint session Friday, discussing multiple approaches to the $960,702.42 upgrade.

It doesn't appear to be as simple as just one solution, with officials discussing a combination of solutions to fund the project.

Perhaps the most intriguing proposal is in the use of a new County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT) for public safety.

While CAGIT funds are already drawn from the income of county residents, the county council has the power to approve an additional CAGIT tax rate of one quarter of one percent (0.00025) for the purpose of public safety.

Such a tax would bring in an estimated $150,000 annually to be used for public safety.

That figure, which is only an estimate, is not simply the county's for the taking, however, as it would be distributed to the county as well as all cities and towns within the county. This means that the county would get the largest piece of the funding from the new CAGIT fund, but money would also go to the City of Greencastle and the towns of Bainbridge, Cloverdale, Fillmore, Roachdale and Russellville.

There is a possibility that the county could reach agreements with the municipalities, whereby some of their CAGIT funds for public safety also go toward the 911 issue.

While this could be a good resource for funding dispatch and other public safety needs in the future, it will also take some time to get the ball rolling.

Ordinances will have to be drafted for the approval of both boards. Before approval, they must be publicly advertised.

And even after approval, a period exists for public remonstrance of the new tax.

With that timeline and uncertainty surrounding when the funds would begin to flow, county officials hope to get the process started as soon as possible.

With the lag time on the new CAGIT funding, if it even comes to pass, officials discussed other solutions as well.

One of these is financing the software. Costin presented three different financing options.

* First National Bank offered a 10-year loan of $960,000 at an interest rate of the prime rate plus 0.19 percent, which was 3.44 percent as of March 16. The estimated annual payment amount would be $115,379.06.

* Government Capital Corporation offered a 10-year loan of $950,000 with an interest rate of 3.895 percent. Annual loan payments would be $110,960.67

* North Salem State Bank offered a 10-year loan at a rate of 2.5 percent.

No payment estimate was given, with NSSB Commercial Loan Officer Michael Clampitt letting the county decide between monthly and annual payments.

County officials were especially impressed by the low rate offered by NSSB.

No decision was made on any financing, but it remains as an option for paying for all or part of the project.

Utilizing money already in county funds such as hazardous waste and rainy day was also discussed.

While the hazardous waste fund was on everyone's mind, no more than 10 percent of the balance of the fund may be spent on the Emergency Operations Center in any given year. Because the bond payment is made from the fund, little remains available for other EOC uses.

The rainy day fund, with a current balance of $1.498 million, was also suggested as a possible source.

Councilman Gene Beck, opposed to any sort of new tax, suggested using $498,000 from rainy day to pay a big portion of the upgrade cost up front.

While his colleagues shared Beck's reluctance over new taxes, they also wished not to deplete the county's current resources.

"We have 911, but we have about four other issues," Councilman Larry Parker said, pointing out that they are facing funding issues with health insurance, the humane shelter, county roads and the assessor's office.

"If we're going to do this (fund 911 software), we need to find a way to address all of these things."

Council President Darrel Thomas agreed, saying the county needs its current funds for these issues and any unforeseen problems to come.

"We can sit here and play with rainy day and hazardous waste until the cows come home but at the end of the day it's good to have those reserves," Thomas said.

While no final plans were made, the two boards reached a consensus to move forward with exploring the CAGIT public safety funding.

In terms of up front funding for the software, the county is likely to borrow money, with some of the initial funding likely drawn from the rainy day fund, with plans to pay it back.

For now, attorneys Jim Ensley and Trudy Selvia, counsel for the two boards, were authorized to begin drafting ordinances for the proposed CAGIT fund.

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  • Can funds from sale of county home property be used at EOC?

    -- Posted by kubotafan on Sat, Mar 21, 2015, at 9:59 AM
  • Thank you Mr. Beck for your stand on no new taxes on Putnam County residents!

    -- Posted by justducky on Sat, Mar 21, 2015, at 1:47 PM
  • Thank you Mr. Parker for your stand on preserving funds for county roads. They are the pits.

    -- Posted by Ben Dover on Sun, Mar 22, 2015, at 8:52 AM
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