County Learns of Road Funding Windfall

Kosciusko County Council will have a few choices to make when it comes to road funding, and some of it could be a little scary, council President Bob Sanders said Thursday.
He said he learned that the state decided to make a much larger than usual disbursement of County Option and County Economic Development income tax money in May as a “one-time deal,” with the stipulation that 75 percent of the money be used for roads. That share of it represents $1.15 million, according to Sanders.
The state usually holds as much as 50 percent of the money in reserve, County Treasurer Sue Ann Mitchell said today, since it doesn’t know exactly how much each county has coming until after income taxes are filed, almost two years after the money is collected. She said the larger disbursement represents a withholding of only 15 percent this time.
“The road money is a big deal, it really is a big deal, and we have to make sure we do it right,” she said, “and spend it on the right thing, what’s best to get out of the money for the taxpayers.”
Sanders told council members Thursday they will have to decide if they want to put the money in the rainy day fund and save it for future use, or treat it as income and use it now.
He also said he learned that the state will allow counties to double their wheel tax, and for some towns to pass their own wheel tax.
“Counties are now going to be able to – this will sound scary – double their wheel tax. And any town with a population of 10,000 or more could make its own wheel tax in addition to that,” he said. “So potentially someone could be paying three times.”
He said when council members discuss what to do with the wheel tax in the next few months, they will have to decide how they want to preserve and maintain the roads and whether they consider an increase in fees necessary. He also challenged them to do some research and find out what people want.
Earlier in the meeting Kosciusko Economic Development Corp. President George Robertson told council that 2016 may be a slower year for business growth after the high-water marks of employment seen last year. But it might not be a bad thing, he said, since it gives them a chance to focus more on workforce development.
Robertson said they received a state grant to hold a health careers fair for high school sophomores, for example, to introduce young people to what’s involved in various roles in the health field. He said it’s the fastest growing segment of the economy and he wants to see local students get involved.
Also Thursday, council:
• Was introduced to Kurt Jones, who will be the new director of Kosciusko Community Corrections beginning Monday. Council also approved a salary ordinance amendment for his pay.
• Voted to allow Bell Memorial Library to make an additional appropriation of $15,800 from its own rainy day fund to carry out several renovations. Director Stephen Boggs said the library plans to replace its heating and cooling equipment and renovate the community room, large conference room and media center, as well as giving the library a fresh coat of paint inside.
• Approved $8,000 for County Auditor Michelle Puckett to have 25 plat books digitally scanned. She noted scanning would be cheaper than having the books, which span from 1962 to 2000, laminated for preservation. She also noted the money will come from a fund supported by a $5 fee collected every time the office records a deed.
• Heard that Mitchell was elected vice president of the northeast district of the Association of Indiana Counties. She said she has held various offices with the association, including time as president, since she started as county assessor in 1995.