CROWN POINT | The Lake County Council is researching a local option income tax in addition to a wheel tax for possible passage later this year.
Council members told their audience Tuesday they have employed Indiana University to analyze the many options available under state law to pass a tax on the personal income of county residents and workers that will provide the most fair distribution of property tax relief.
Lake is the only county in the state that hasn't adopted a local income tax and is being punished for its refusal by the General Assembly, which put a virtual freeze in 2007 on the total amount of property taxes that can be collected in the county.
The freeze combined with state-mandated limits on the total taxes extracted from any single real estate parcel have so reduced county government revenues that officials have been forced to eliminate 300 jobs from their payroll over the last three years, and borrow $15 million to avoid either deficit spending or even deeper cost cutting this year.
County officials have resisted a local income tax, saying it would be unfair because business income is exempted, but council members recently have acknowledged the rising cost of the Lake County Jail, anticipated millions to be spent on a unified E-911 emergency call center, and other demands on local government are forcing them to confront the new tax issue again.
Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said the council and Board of Commissioners also are working with Purdue University to prepare a public seminar to take place during a special meeting on an evening later this year in the Lake County Government Complex's auditorium.That seminar would discuss a proposed wheel tax that could be imposed on both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks to finance repairs of the county's crumbling roads.
County officials said the millions of dollars the state once supplied from gasoline taxes to repair local roads have been diverted to fund the state police.
No dates have been set on when to release information on either tax or when a vote would be taken on their possible passage. The county has until November to pass an income tax that would take effect in 2014.
"There is no rush. We are moving methodically on this," Bilski said.
The council denied a $2,100 supplemental pay raise to the county surveyor's chief deputy.
The county clerk postponed a request to provide supplemental pay raises to eight of his deputies.