Lake County officials got good advice last week from an Indiana University expert in public finance. Now it's time to act on it.
Assistant professor Justin M. Ross, of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Lake County Council what local government units do has ripple effects beyond municipal boundaries.
Indiana's property tax caps limit individual tax bills to a maximum of 1 percent of the assessed value of a primary residence, 2 percent for rental property or vacation home, and 3 percent for a business.
So if one unit of local government charges a high tax rate to support a big budget, other units of local government — like the county — are affected as well. The layers of government operate independently, but their effect on the tax bill is cumulative.
Ross encouraged local officials to share their circuit-breaker forecasts with neighboring cities so they can understand the impact their spending has on each other. It's good advice.
The professor also advised the County Council to manage money better.
Understanding tax caps' impact and other nuances could help the county and other units of local government better understand their revenue flow and plan accordingly.
Now that the county has income tax revenue coming in, it needs to think carefully about how best to handle its income and spending.
That means setting money aside, not going on a spending spree.
The IU report also advises creating a human resources office.
Creating an HR office could clean up the hiring process and put more emphasis on applicants' qualifications than just their politics.
Consultant Tom Dabertin performs some HR functions for Lake County, but it's not the same as having a full-time expert on the county payroll to be available every day to straighten out this mess.
Those two recommendations — set up an HR office and engage in long-range financial planning — should be followed immediately, because they should have been done years ago.