Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: Interesting developments in tax hike effort

·3 min read

Oct. 16—The path to an increase of the public safety income tax took an unexpected turn this past week.

Although it was the Madison County Council that first proposed the increase in the tax, this week, that same body voted against a tax hike.

That vote put the prospects of adoption in jeopardy.

The proposed 0.3% tax hike would provide funding for a new jail and the county's criminal justice system stated it was short of funding to operate properly.

Those tax revenues are shared with the county by every city and town.

Increasing the tax requires a majority vote of the Madison County Tax Council, where votes are allocated to every council based on population.

If the tax is adopted, the additional dollars must be spent on public safety, which would allow local units of government to divert other tax revenues to other departments or to fund projects.

The problem really surfaced last month when the Madison County Council decided to table a vote on the tax increase for a month to get additional public input.

It's a commendable effort, but the council should have scheduled a special meeting instead of waiting a month.

As related by criminal justice system officials, the tax increase had to be in place by the end of the month to take effect on Jan. 1.

That meant the Pendleton Town Board was the first to vote on the increase and they adopted it unanimously as an effort to hire additional police officers and necessary equipment for the rapidly growing community.

This week the county council voted to defeat the proposed tax hike, clearly putting the ball in the Anderson City Council's court.

If Anderson's council votes for the increase, it will likely take effect with anticipated supportive votes from several other city and town councils.

This year was the proper opportunity to propose a tax increase because it was a non-election year.

Three of the four no votes on the county council were cast by officeholders facing re-election in 2022.

Republicans Diana Likens and Jerry Alexander and Democrat Fred Reese will all have to run again next year. The other no vote was cast by Republican Mikeal Vaughn, who doesn't run again until 2024.

Likens did ask about amending the resolution to reduce the tax increase back to 0.15%.

During the County Council meeting, councilman Anthony Emery noted that the public safety income tax hike will have to be considered again in 2022 to provide a financial guarantee on any bonds issued for construction of a new $68 million jail.

Emery also said a "sunset" clause could be added in 2022 that would automatically reduce the tax increase to another level.

Timing is everything, and on two counts county officials missed the proverbial boat.

First of all, the Madison County Council should have been the first to vote on the property tax increase.

Secondly, it should have been presented long before it had to be adopted by the end of October.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4863.

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