Where will the money come from?
That is the question Lake County officials must ask as the debate over an option income tax rages on.
County officials are faced with expensive mandates from state and federal governments.
Millions are required to set conditions right at the county jail in Crown Point.
By the end of next year, all public safety phone calls in the county must be routed through a central 911 center. That requires new equipment and facilities to house the call center.
Some have estimated the county needs $19 million in new revenue to meet its obligations. To get by this year, the council was forced to borrow $15 million, and that’s without the cost of state and federal mandates
And so the need for the county income tax seems obvious.
I understand no one wants to pay added taxes. I don’t.
But it is the responsibility of Lake County citizens to adequately fund their government.
So if not an income tax, where will the new money come from?
Lake County is the lone county of 92 in Indiana to not have adopted the income tax.
Some argue adopting the tax will not be necessary if the county cuts fat from its operations. That sounds good, but reality is that the county has operated under budget limits imposed in 2007. It’s done so as costs kept creeping higher. It has cut and cut again.
I have no doubt there is fat left to trim, but not enough soon enough to meet the huge financial demands placed by mandate on the county.
The decision on the tax must be made by the County Council. It meets Monday to vote on the tax.
It’s a tough position for council members to be in. Emotions are running high against the tax. The pressure on council members is great.
The first vote on the tax drew a favorable 4 to 3 vote. It will take five council votes to make the tax veto-proof.
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, a Democrat, and – as strange as it seems – recent GOP county chairwoman Kim Krull are leading the anti-tax movement.
And so it is a safe bet the commissioners will veto the tax.
That leaves it up to the council and, in particular, a fifth vote by Councilwoman Christine Cid to override the veto and put the county on a sound financial footing.
While the overriding question is where will the money come from, in the end the question must be will the principle of common sense good government prevail or will it be an emotional decision?
Well, it is Lake County, where politics rules supreme. Enough said.