BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – Bartholomew County residents gathered Tuesday night for the first of two meetings to discuss an income tax increase proposed by the county council.
Many residents had mixed emotions about the proposal. Dozens shared their opinions during the public meeting.
The council is proposing a .5 percent income tax increase. That would bring the total county income tax to .75 percent with .25 percent going directly to public safety. The public safety funds would aid in the sheriff’s office's request for five additional deputies and two nurses.
Councilors cite the county's growing drug epidemic as the reason for the struggling public safety budget. Detective Will Kinman spoke about a personal experience dealing with the heartbreaking reality of drug abuse.
"It really hits home when you have a 27-year-old cousin who’s still got a band around his arm and a needle in his hand," Kinman said.
Councilman Mark Gorbett (R) is also a former sheriff. He knows firsthand the problems inside and outside the jail.
"We looked at what we needed, and I stress that, what we needed as a community and a county not what we wanted," he said.
While many members of the community agree the county's drug problems need to be addressed, some expressed their concerns about the current proposal.
"I'm not opposed to you raising taxes. I’m opposed to what’s going to happen with the money," said resident Mark Lovelace.
"Throwing money at a problem is not a solution," added resident Joe Swaim.
Many residents said they wanted to see more funds going towards a treatment facility. Council members said they are looking into that, plus expanding the old jail to add additional room for inmates.
Council President Laura DeDomenic (R) said the income tax increase is the only option to keep public safety running.
"I, like many people am against taxes, but the county cannot maintain operations without increasing a budget," said resident CW McKittrick.
There will be another public meeting on Tuesday, October 10 at 6 p.m. After that, council will vote on the proposal. If it passes, it will go into effect in 2018.