Elected officials representing Boone County's municipalities voted Tuesday night to increase the countywide local income tax by 50 percent to support public safety agencies.
The tax, which is currently set at 1 percent, will increase to 1.5 percent on Jan. 1. It is expected to cost a resident earning $80,000 per year an additional $400 annually.
The median household income in Boone County is $68,352, according to data from 2014.
The tax is expected to create an additional $12.7 million in revenue annually, which will help fund a total of 13 police and fire departments throughout the county.
Implementing the tax hike required support from the governing bodies representing a majority of the county’s population. The Boone County Council unanimously approved a resolution in September, and the governing bodies for six communities—Advance, Jamestown, Lebanon, Thorntown, Whitestown and Zionsville—met Tuesday at Lebanon High School to vote on the tax increase.
Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen had requested the tax increase to address growing public-safety needs in the area. The sheriff’s office hasn’t increased its staff levels since 2004, even though the number of residents has grown.
“I hope each you tonight have a clear understanding of what’s at stake,” Nielsen said. “I wish I didn’t have to stand here and have these conversations.”
The sheriff’s office plans to add 24 new positions in 2017, including eight deputies and 10 corrections officers with the additional funding.
After listening to about 90 minutes of public comments, which included a mix of those in support and opposed to the increase, the bodies individually voted to approve the tax hike.
Lebanon City Council members seemed to struggle the most with the decision, which ended up being determined by council member Keith Campbell, who said seconds before the vote that he was undecided.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of the resolution, with Campbell supporting it.
The three members who opposed the tax said they supported public safety, but the rate being proposed was too steep for them. County officials had also previously discussed raising it to 1.25 percent.
“This has really been a difficult decision to make. It’s not that we aren’t for public safety,” council member Dick Robertson said. “But 1.5 (percent) is an awful lot to ask for right now.”
Thorntown Town Council also had a close vote, with the body splitting 2-2 and the town clerk casting the deciding vote in favor of it.
The town councils representing Advance, Jamestown, Whitestown and Zionsville unanimously supported the tax.
Zionsville Town Council president Susana Suarez said after the vote that Zionsville plans to introduce an ordinance next year that would keep the tax in place for at least seven years, but no more than 10 years.
Zionsville has estimated the tax will generate $3.8 million annually for its fire and police departments. The town plans to hire seven police officers and one additional office staff employee within the next three years. The fire department would like to add three paramedics and six full-time firefighters.