Johnson County eyes fee increases to offset cuts

Residents of a central Indiana county could pay more to own dogs or have work done at their homes and could buy a beer at county-owned property under proposals designed to bolster coffers hurt by deep spending cuts.

Johnson County Commissioner John Price said officials are looking at ways to raise money after cutting more than $2 million from spending for next year. Proposals include increasing the fees to register dogs, implementing a licensing fee for kennels and breeders, charging to run criminal history checks and requiring motorists locked out of their cars to pay a fee when a deputy is called to help them get back into their vehicles.

Other ideas include allowing the county to collect all the money from traffic tickets written on county roads and allowing alcohol sales at the Johnson County Park and fairgrounds, the Daily Journal reported.

Price said officials are still researching the ideas and have to weigh their impact, especially liability concerns if alcohol sales were allowed on county properties.

Officials say the goal is to raise enough money to keep or hire more employees, give raises and prevent cuts in services.

"I don't like it either because they're already being taxed enough; but when we're $2.2 million short in this budget, I lost a courthouse security person," Sheriff Doug Cox said.

Cox is considering charging fees for services his office already provides, such as criminal history reports often needed for new jobs, checks of vehicle identification numbers, calls to help locked-out motorists and referrals the office makes to towing companies.

He's also looking into whether the county could keep revenue from traffic tickets written on local streets instead of sending a portion to city courts and the state. The county currently gets $12.50 for each traffic violation ticket, which averages about $120.

Cox said he would want to find out if the change is cost-effective and if his department would benefit. He said county officials have said in the past that money collected likely would go into the county general fund, which pays salaries and bills for most county offices.

"I create this, I bring in $1 million, and at the end of the year, they ask me to eliminate employees," Cox said. "If my guys are going to be working extra hard, they ought to see a benefit from working extra hard."

Planning Department Director Bryan Pohl said he is researching what other counties charge for additions, new homes and alterations to property to see how Johnson County compares.

"I think we are due for some kind of adjustment. I just don't know what those fees would be," Pohl said. "The attitude is that we are a public service organization, but I think we should at least look at that and have that conversation."

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