By David Slone
WARSAW – Like the Warsaw Common Council earlier this week, the Kosciusko County Council on Thursday approved a resolution opposing legislation regarding the business personal property tax elimination.
Council President Sue Ann Mitchell provided the resolution and said, “Personal property elimination at the state legislature has become a really big topic. AIM – the unit that represents municipalities – and the (Association of Indiana Counties) have worked together to try to provide information and to provide the data in order to help the legislators understand what the impact would be of reducing or eliminating personal property.”
She said the AIM has discussed that it would be beneficial for those who were interested to sign a resolution explaining what the impact would be.
“There is no way to break out what they’re talking about right now, is eliminating the 30% floor on personal property, which means when people got done depreciating their personal property, it would fall off the records and there would be no further taxes collected on those items,” Mitchell explained.
“Sounds like a great idea. We don’t oppose them doing it. What we oppose is not making the money available back to local government that their legislation is taking away.”
The slogan has become “Replace, Don’t Just Reduce.”
Mitchell said County Auditor Michelle Puckett worked on the figures Thursday and “if we lost all personal property – this is all, not just that 30% floor; but you also have to remember that every year they have decreased the dollar threshold that you have to file in order to pay your taxes. So that reducing threshold – currently, in Kosciusko County, we collect over $60 million in personal property – so if that funding mechanism went away, and because of the tax caps, the shift would be from those businesses that had those equipments over to homeowners. That’s a pretty big ask for homeowners.”
Council Vice President Joni Truex said, “I don’t think our legislators at the state have really considered the fact that businesses can raise the price on products in most cases in order to offset some of their expenses, like personal property taxes, etc. Homeowners have no way of raising money from their home. It is what it is, and, eventually, we could price out, just based on the taxes of the house, to where people couldn’t even afford to own a house.”
Councilman Ernie Wiggins said, “I just think it’s important that we contact our legislators. Warsaw City Council already approved their legislation, and I think about every cities and towns and counties should be supportive. This is just a bad bill. Period.”
Councilwoman Kimberly Cates said it may have been a great idea to the state legislators, but “I don’t think they realized the dollar amount that it’s actually going to affect the counties and county income eventually.”
“In all due respect,” Wiggins said, “They should have done a fiscal impact study before they introduced the bill. So I think somebody just wanted to push this agenda.”
Mitchell said AIC spent $70,000 to do a study in order to provide the overall information. “That tells you how important the board of AIC thought it was. And AIM has provided a lot of the documentation, the public relation stuff, to get that information out.”
Cates made a motion to pass the resolution, Wiggins seconded it and it was approved 7-0.
Mitchell also brought up another item that wasn’t on the Council’s agenda.
“One of the things that we need to talk about, be prepared for, what we’re going to do at next month’s meeting, is where we’re at with the agreement for the (Kosciusko County Convention Recreation Visitors Commission), and how we’re going to handle the change in what the duties are that the auditor is going to do for them,” she said. “Some of you may realize that things had changed with the auditor’s office and their interaction.”
She said the Council needed to decide if they wanted to attach “something to it financially” in exchange for the auditor’s office doing the work, providing the supplies and advertising “and all that.”
Puckett said her office helps out many organizations as far as secretarial skills and being comptroller for them. That includes the Kosciusko County Solid Waste Management District, Redevelopment Commission, County Council and Commissioners and the KCCRVC.
“Over the years, our duties for the Commission have changed, and where we’re at right now is that we have a need to perform a few more services than what we were previously,” she said.
Puckett said they have an interlocal agreement with the KCCRVC that “is more vague and less defined.”
“And in recent conversations with some things that have happened, I am more than willing to step forward and provide more assistance to them in the financial side, as well as in the secretarial side, but felt it was very important to have those details outlined in a new interlocal agreement,” she stated.
Historically, the auditor’s office did not collect a fee from the KCCRVC for the service it provided, she said, but the office does pay to advertise the meetings and use the county’s paper, ink, printers, etc. Puckett said $500 a year would be fair to compensate the county for the supplies.
“But with the interlocal agreement organized the way it is, I don’t feel there would be much more of a hindrance on the workload of my office and we are committed to fill that in our regular workday with my current staff,” she said.
Councilman Mike Long asked if it would be an annual agreement and Puckett said yes. The KCCRVC, County Commissioners and Council all have to approve it.
The KCCRVC meets six times a year and their next meeting is in March, before the Council’s next meeting, Mitchell said.
Councilman Jon Garber made a motion to approve the $500 fee and the Council unanimously approved it. The Commissioners also will need to approve it.
In other business, the Council approved:
• An additional appropriation of a $40,000 Emergency Management Performance grant from 2021, as requested by Kosciusko County Emergency Management Director Ed Rock. He said the county will use the money to enhance its cybersecurity.
• An Indiana Department of Natural Resources grant proposal for $15,000, as requested by Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Shane Bucher. The money, if awarded, will go toward the KCSO Marine Patrol Division so they can patrol Lake Wawasee, Syracuse Lake and Tippecanoe Lake and their chains. The County Commissioners previously approved the grant application.
• An additional appropriation of $215,299.50 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for new KCSO radios, as requested by Bucher. He said starting Tuesday the KCSO cars will have the new radios put in on a rotational basis.
Mitchell said, “Just to clarify, what we had appropriated out of the (American Rescue Plan Act) money, or what we said we were going to spend, that was already reduced by this amount because by the time we did that, we knew that they had those grants.”
Along with KCSO’s grant, other departments in the county receiving funding from the JAG program were Pierceton, Claypool and Winona Lake police.
“So that helped reduce what we were spending out of the ARPA money,” Mitchell said.
• An additional appropriation of $24,000 from the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant for bulletproof vests; $30,000 from a Comprehensive Hoosier Highways Injury Reduction Program (CHIRP) Click It To Live It 2022 grant and $22,500 from a CHIRP DUI Task Force 2022 grant for overtime patrolling for seatbelt and DUI enforcement, as requested by Bucher.
• An additional appropriation of $12,225 for insurance vehicle replacement as requested by Bucher. He said last fall an officer in his patrol vehicle hit a deer and the insurance company ended up totaling the vehicle out for $12,225. Bucher said the KCSO wanted to move that money from the general fund into the KCSO insurance replacement to use for new vehicles.
• A transfer of $15,000 from sheriff maintenance contracts to sheriff dues and subscriptions, as requested by Bucher. He said the transfer was to compensate additional subscriptions the KCSO has and to pay the subscriptions “in the correct account.”