Council Approves Sheriff’s Salary, Amends Wheel Tax, Hears JDAI Update

(Carli Luca / News Now Warsaw)

Items on the Kosciusko County Council’s agenda Thursday night included the sheriff’s and matron’s salaries; an update on the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI); an amendment to the wheel tax; and the council’s nonbinding recommendation to taxing units.


Auditor Michelle Puckett prepared two salary ordinances for the council to approve – one for the county sheriff and one for the jail matron. She said the salary ordinance follows Indiana code, as far as the process in paying the sheriff, and Indiana code also states the matron is supposed to be paid as much as a deputy.

The salary ordinance for Sheriff Kyle Dukes was approved by a vote of 5-1, with Councilman Mike Long voting against it. Dukes’ maximum annual salary will be $156,137.

Long said he voted against it because, “After looking things over, I just can’t in clear conscience agree with state mandates as to what we do in the county. I believe it should remain in the county; the decision should be within the county.” He said it was not a criticism of Dukes.

The salary ordinance for matron Kris Woodard was approved unanimously. Her annual salary will be $48,839.


Superior Court I Judge David Cates gave the council a brief update on the JDAI. He said the committee has been working very hard on it, and he gave “a lot of credit” to Warsaw Police; Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department; Warsaw, Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley schools; county government; the Bowen Center; probation department; Department of Child Services; and even some parents who’ve been involved.

“These people have been working very hard to make sure that we’re detaining kids for the right reasons in this county,” he said.

At the committee’s last meeting, Cates said it came up with a purpose of detention statement. That statement is, “The purpose of detention in Kosciusko County is to protect public safety while balancing the dangers of detention and the best interest of the child.”

The committee’s next meeting is at noon Aug. 22 in the Justice Building basement, and Cates invited the council to attend. He said they’ll be working on a tool to meet that statement and goal.

He said the 2017 detention study for Kosciusko County has been completed.

“It shows a few things we need to work on,” Cates said, including slightly higher detention rates. “We’re going to work on that. That tool I just mentioned is one of those methods, we’ll be working on that. We want to keep detentions down.”

If the county can keep detentions down, Cates said that will be less of a burden on taxpayers and provide for more public safety if needed.

The 2017 study numbers were before the county’s JDAI program.

In 2018, Cates said there were 592 kids referred to the county’s juvenile probation department.

Roughly 4 out of 10 of those were for status offenses like truancy, runaways and tobacco offenses. He said, “We’re working very hard to get Teen Court revamped and up and running again because that’s where those kids are going to go to keep them out of the system.”

“Interestingly enough, about a sixth of all the referrals were for thefts. Small, low-level thefts – shoplifting and stuff like that. Roughly 2 out of 10 were for felony offenses, or would have been for felony offenses had these kids been adults. And amazingly enough, one of the largest of those is auto theft. A lot of those were for stealing from their own parents or friends. So we need to address this,” Cates said.

Long range, he said they’re going to continue expanding programming to deal with these kids and are looking to partner with local stakeholders to provide “one-stop shopping for education, counseling, probation, community corrections, maybe shelter care for these kids.”

Wheel Tax

At a special July 23 meeting, the council approved changes to the county wheel tax that will go into effect Jan. 1.

At its meeting Thursday, it made one amendment to those changes: Historical vehicles will see an increase in their tax like any other vehicle. Historical vehicles, motorcycles and motor-driven cycles were to remain at $25 instead of seeing an increase of $10 to $35.

County attorney Chad Miner told the council Thursday, “At the last meeting, the issue was the historic vehicles, and since then I have heard back from the council, the BMV, and the ability to break the fees down by historic vehicles is not something they can do provide for us in 2020.”

He said going forward, if there’s an interest in “doing some of these different types of breakdowns, like the historic vehicles, the sense that I got from the BMV is that if we approach them a little earlier on, that may be something they could do.”

Miner said he rewrote the ordinance that the council approved at its July 23 meeting, with the only change being the omission of the historic vehicles as remaining at $25.

The council approved the amended wheel tax ordinance.

Taxing Units Recommendation

The last item the county council approved Thursday was its nonbinding recommendation to taxing units.

President Sue Ann Mitchell said the county council is responsible for making a recommendation to other taxing units concerning their maximum tax levy and sharing with them the tax caps. She said the council has to comment on how the taxing units should proceed with their budgets.

She then read a statement she prepared which she said should be a positive step.

The statement reads: “Please consider the following recommendations as you finalize your 2020 budget:

“The council certainly supports saving tax dollars to make large purchases over borrowing money and paying interest if there is a specific plan or purpose for the funds. The council does not support taxing units hoarding money with no particular purpose. Taxing units with large reserves and no plan on how to spend the money are encouraged to adjust their tax levy to reflect their actual need instead of collecting the maximum levy each year.

“The council encourages each taxing unit to look seriously at their budgets and determine if proposed levies are reasonable. If cash balances on hand are in excess of what is needed to operate for one year, the maximum levy should not be needed unless there are special circumstances or large projects planned.

“The Kosciusko County Council supports each taxing unit’s efforts to collect what is needed for the unit to operate successfully with the least impact to taxpayers.”

Mitchell said it’s a message strong enough to send to the other taxing units and the county will try and live by it as well.