Questions abound at joint session

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Before Putnam County officials can answer the questions surrounding funding new 911 software, they need more answers from the State of Indiana.

The Putnam County Commissioners and Putnam County Council convened a joint session Monday morning regarding funding for the proposed $960,000 software upgrade. Although the issue has been addressed at multiple separate meetings and one March joint meeting, the process is still clouded by questions from members of both boards.

At the heart of the matter for the commissioner and council is the viability of a proposed 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.

While most of the board members stated their dislike of new taxes in general, the county seems to have few other options at this point.

"I wish there was another option," Council Vice President Keith Berry said, "but I see no other option. And it relates to public safety."

One other proposal addressed Monday is the possibility of a special purpose CAGIT. The difference is that the special purpose tax could be passed to apply only to the 911 project, not to public safety in general, and that it could be applied with an end date of when the software is paid off.

Regardless of the chosen route, Monday's meeting was clouded by questions of exactly how the new CAGIT tax would affect the county's other local option income taxes.

Still wanting answers before proceeding, the commissioners and councilmen drafted a series of questions for the Department of Local Government Finance, which included:

* Would the county have to establish a County Option Income Tax board? If so, could the County Council serve as this board?

* What is the distribution formula for the funds collected from a public safety CAGIT? What percentage would go to the county and what percentage to cities and towns?

* Is Putnam County at its maximum rate for CAGIT? Is it at the maximum on all local option income taxes?

* If a public safety CAGIT was adopted, would other CAGIT rates have to be reduced?

* In lieu of a public safety CAGIT, is a special purpose CAGIT a viable option?

* What effect will new laws regarding local option income taxes have on Putnam County and the proposed tax in particular?

* What is the deadline for enacting such a tax?

The questions have been submitted to the state, but no answers were back as of Tuesday evening.

County officials will wait for more guidance before proceeding.

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