EDITORIAL: Lake needs this bitter medicine

2013-05-10T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Lake needs this bitter medicine nwitimes.com
May 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lake County commissioners are expected to vote today to veto the income tax approved by the Lake County Council. The veto should fail.

On Monday, the Lake County Council passed a 1.5 percent income tax that would apply to all residents and to out-of-state residents working in Lake County. But two of the three county commissioners have vowed to veto that tax.

If they do, and if the council then fails to get the additional vote necessary to override the veto — we're talking about you, Councilwoman Christine Cid — residents will feel the pinch of reduced services.

Already, council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, told county officials that their $8.6 million in requests for new spending likely won't be approved.

That includes money for drainage projects, much to the chagrin of Surveyor George Van Til.

"When our budget was cut six months ago, we were told don't worry, everything would be fine," Van Til said. "Every time a raindrop falls, I worry about it."

It seems likely that killing the income tax will result in flooded roads and basements.

Among other spending requests Thursday were $4.5 million for paving (expect roads to get worse), $385,000 for new computers (expect service to get slower), $122,000 in court expenses for a death penalty trial earlier this year (expect heads to roll so that cost can be covered), $2 million for Lake County Jail staff salaries and benefits (that might have to come from other budgets) and $80,000 for new vehicles for the coroner's office (expect repair costs to rise).

And that's just for starters. Even with the property tax levy unfrozen, the county still faces a big deficit. This year, it borrowed $15 million to make ends meet. And as tax caps continue to kick in, the problem is likely to get increasingly more dire.

It would be foolish to say there's no more fat to fry in county government. But there's not that much fat.  

That will mean drastic cuts if the income tax is killed.

This income tax isn't palatable. It's bitter medicine, but it's necessary.

There is too much at stake — vital services, not just frills — to reject this tax.

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