CROWN POINT | False alarm. Lake will remain the only county in the state without a local option income tax, for at least a few more weeks.
Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, announced Friday at Lake County Government Complex that the special meeting — at which officials hoped to vote on second and final reading of a 1.5 percent assessment on the personal income of county residents as well as others working in Lake County — had to be canceled.
He said leaders were unable to publish a legal notice of the vote 24 hours before the meeting took place. The notice appeared Friday morning in The Times.
Many in the audience, who brandished anti-tax signs appeared pleased no vote would be taken Friday.
Four Democrats on the seven-member council voted April 9 to pass the tax to preserve local government services on first reading.
They originally scheduled the second and final reading of the tax ordinances for next month's regular meeting, now set for 6 p.m. May 14.
However, that pro-tax majority decided Wednesday to accelerate its schedule to outrace a Republican bill in the General Assembly that would have diverted one out of every six new tax dollars to public transportation projects of the Regional Development Authority.
County officials insist any income tax they pass must be spent on property tax relief and building the depleted budgets of local government.
Democratic local officials have opposed passing an income tax in the past as an unfair burden on working residents.
But a decade of legislation, dominated by downstate Republicans, have eliminated, reduced or frozen business-related tax revenues that have sustained local government in past years. County officials have been forced to shrink payrolls and borrow in the face of rising operational costs, including federal- and state-mandated public safety initiatives.
If the council passes the ordinances on second reading next month, they move before the three-member Board of Commissioners, where opposition to the tax likely will result in a veto.
The tax then would die, unless the council musters five votes to override the veto.
Daniel Murchek, assistant county police chief and president of Lake County Police Association Local 72, said Friday he supports the income tax as a way to ensure public safety and other local government services are maintained.
He welcomed legislation that will unfreeze the county's property tax levy. He was one of several suing to unfreeze the levy as unconstitutional meddling in local government affairs, but said the levy unfreeze will free up only about $4 million, which isn't enough.