Carmel City Council OKs county income tax increase

The Carmel City Council on Monday night unanimously approved a resolution to increase the county’s income tax by 10 percent to pay for 911 operations, joining Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville in supporting the tax hike.

The vote came after Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville passed similar measures last month. Those three cities represent more than 51 percent of the county’s population, meeting a statutory threshold required for the tax increase to take effect.

On Monday night, Commissioner Christine Altman, who has led the charge for implementing the new tax, called Carmel’s vote critical after questions emerged about whether Westfield’s vote would be validated by the Department of Local Government Finance.

The Westfield City Council approved the increase at its Sept. 23 meeting, but Altman on Monday said there was a technical issue with the vote.

Westfield Director of Communications Vicki Duncan Gardner told IBJ on Monday that the city had not been contacted by the DLGF about any issues related to the tax increase. But the city that day scheduled a city council meeting for Wednesday morning to ensure the language in Westfield’s resolution matched the other cities’ and to make sure there were no further issues. That meeting was called off Tuesday after the city determined a meeting wasn’t necessary.

The county’s current local income tax is 1 percent. The 10 percent increase will raise the tax to 1.1 percent and is expected to generate $16 million in funding for the county’s 911 operations. The tax will take effect Jan. 1.

For years, the county and four cities—Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield—have largely funded 911 services for the entire county, including its four towns through interlocal agreements. But last year, the cities renegotiated those agreements with the county, leaving the towns—Atlanta, Cicero, Sheridan and Arcadia—on the hook for expenses they previously never had to budget for.

At that time, leaders began discussing an income tax increase to fund 911 operations, which run about $11 million a year. The county would use roughly $8 million of the $16 million generated by the tax increase to fund 911 operations. The remaining funds could be used to build a new 911 center, officials have said.

Ultimately, the Hamilton County Council—the county’s fiscal body—will decide how that funding is spent. That council did not vote on the tax increase at its monthly meeting last week.

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