2018-10-10 / Front Page

County Council reverses tax hike decision

By Debbie Lowe
Staff writer

The Carroll County Council did not pass a proposed ordinance on the first reading at their Sept. 20 meeting to increase the income tax. Three of the six members present at the meeting, Jason Scott, Lawrence Stauffer and Paul Rider, voted against the tax hike and three members, Ann Brown, Josh Plue and Jamie Rough, voted in favor of it. Council member Tim Radcliff was absent from the meeting. However, that changed at an Oct. 4 meeting when the majority of the Council members present voted to pass the ordinance on first reading.

The Council met Sept. 26 to finalize budget matters and the topic of the income tax was broached. Rough was not present for this meeting, however Radcliff was in attendance. They decided at this meeting to discuss the matter at the upcoming Oct. 4 meeting. When contacted during the meeting by the Comet, Rough indicated he already knew about the plan to discuss the issue on Oct. 4.

The Council met Oct. 4 to hear from department heads about their 2019 proposed budget appropriations and to hold a public hearing for the 2019 proposed budget. Then a meeting to discuss the ordinance to increase income tax was held. All Council members were present for the discussion.

“This meeting is to readdress the ordinance for a jail tax,” Council President Brown stated.

A legal advertisement for a Public Hearing for the tax appeared in the Oct. 3 Comet, although the Council had not met to vote to approve the ad.

“How was there an advertisement for a public hearing?” Scott asked. “We never approved it.”

Brown, who voted in favor of the tax hike at the Sept. 26 meeting, said Barnes and Thornburg recommended the advertisement be placed to be able to adopt the ordinance before the end of the month. She said she authorized the placement of the ad before another vote was taken by they Council based on recommendations from Barnes and Thornburg and attorney Eric Burns. Burns said placing the legal ad for a public hearing did not affect the validity of the public hearing. All members of the Council were present at the Oct. 4 meeting.

Brown said the proposed ordinance would be to modify s d“the income tax rate to establish a savings account for a jail project. She said passing ho the ordinance on first reading would provide for a public hearing to allow community members to verbalize their opinions about a tax hike.

Brown asked each Council member to share their thoughts about the proposed tax increase. Rough said he did the math and he believes the county can only fund a $10 million project, not the anticipated $14.5 million one. He said the county would be unable to make an annual bond payment from an increase in income taxes alone.

Plue, Radcliff, Stauffer, Rider and Brown all spoke in favor of the tax increase stating the county should begin to build a savings account to fund any jail project, noting there is no consensus about the size or location of a project among the Commissioners. They likened the measure to a homeowner putting money aside for a large repair on their home.

“This bill’s going to pass,” Rider commented.

However, Scott had a dissenting opinion.

“This (jail overcrowding) is a larger problem,” he said. “It’s not just a lack of space. We aren’t doing things right.”

“I’d rather do this right than do it quick,” Scott continued. “Building a new building should be the last resort.”

All members of the Council, except for Scott, voted to pass the ordinance first reading before adjournment.

The public hearing for the tax increase will be Thursday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. in the courthouse.

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