Boone County sheriff looking to improve safety through tax hike

LEBANON, Ind. -- The Boone County sheriff wants to boost his staff to keep people safe. To do it, he’s asking for more money out of residents’ pockets.

“I would’ve never thought 19 months into my first time that I would be asking for a tax increase,” said Sheriff Mike Nielsen.

But Nielsen believes he’s run out of options.

“We’ve seen an increase in crime,” said Nielsen. “We’ve seen an increase in violent crime.”

Nielsen is frustrated that in 12 years, the office hasn’t been able to add a single deputy. In that same time, the county’s population has grown 24 percent.

“We are ten jail officers behind, we are eight merit deputies behind,” Nielsen begins listing. “We have been exposed in our courthouse, where we only have two courthouse deputies. We’re looking at adding three courthouse deputies as well.”

To fund that big a change in his staff, Nielsen is fighting for a county-wide income tax hike.

For someone making $80,000 a year, the .5 percent increase would mean paying $400 more in taxes.

“What’s worse for me is if I didn’t ask for that because we’re not providing the services or protecting the people of this county like we should be,” said Nielsen.

Despite some objections at past meetings, the county council unanimously approved the tax. A “yes” from the Zionsville or Lebanon councils next Tuesday, would mean the tax hike will go through.

With the money, the sheriff can fulfill his five-year plan. Without it, Nielsen predicts the heroin epidemic and violent crime rate will both get much worse.

“I’ve been saying this for quite some time,” said Nielsen. “We have to get prepared for this. It’s going to continue and we have to make sure we gain that higher ground and make sure these kinds of crimes from happening.”

The sheriff says he’s already held nearly two dozen community meetings to discuss his plans with the public.

Wednesday, he’s hosting two more sessions, starting at 5:30 and 7 p.m. at the Boone County fairgrounds.