PRINCETON —Gibson County Council members Tuesday delayed a vote on a proposed .2% local option income tax dedicated to Gibson County Jails improvements and operation to October, hoping a jail study committee gains more information before they make a decision.
County Councilman Bill McConnell offered the motion to table further discussion action on the proposal made in July until October.
A public hearing on the issue was conducted Aug. 6, and County Attorney James McDonald told councilman Craig Pflug Tuesday that if the council takes a vote to adopt the tax by Oct. 31, the county can begin collecting the income tax in January 2020.
Councilman Mike Stilwell asked what further information could be gained from the jail study committee to make a decision, noting "it shouldn't matter if we need to accumulate the funds."
"We don't have a site and we don't have a design and we don't know about an open-ended tax increase," said McConnell. "There needs to be a lot more discussion..."
Council President Jay Riley said the study committee will give the council more information. "I also agree with you," he told Stilwell, "that we will have to do something sometime."
The study committee includes the council's finance committee, the sheriff, judges, commissioners, the prosecutor and representatives of the public.
"I hope this progresses rapidly in the next 30 days," Pflug said "If we don't do something this year, the can gets kicked further down the road."
County Commissioner Steve Bottoms told the council that the county doesn't have a jail site yet because there's no way to know what options are available until there's a funding source.
The law requires that the county complete a feasibility study and conduct a public hearing on the study prior to any jail construction or expansion.
The proposed tax would be dedicated solely to capital improvements and operation of the Gibson County Jail, raising an estimated $1.5 million per year, at a cost of about $96 more per year to the median $51,000 annual wage-earner in Gibson County.
The tax would be imposed on Gibson County resident income, not out-of-county workers.
A financial consultant earlier told council members the jail tax can only be in place for 22 years. The .2% tax would increase Gibson County’s overall local option income tax rate from .7% to .9%.
Gibson County’s LOIT rate is among the lowest of Indiana’s 92 counties, with only four counties imposing a lower LOIT rate than Gibson.
McDonald told the council in July that state statute requires the LOIT revenue from the jail tax to be maintained in a separate dedicated county fund and used by the county only for paying for correctional facilities and rehabilitation facilities in the county.
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the county, alleging overcrowding and understaffing at the jail.