County considers jail tax for security center project

The current Dubois County Security Center


Dubois County Council members discussed on Monday options for financing either a renovated security center or a new center.

The idea that received the most favor was enacting a jail tax rate on income.

County Council President Jerry Hunefeld said the county has three options for funding a new and/or improved facility. Two of those involve using the local income tax fund — either using current and future funding, or working with municipalities to increase the tax to increase funding.

But council members determined that the county cannot afford to use the local income tax fund. The county currently uses money from that fund to help with additional funding that is needed in the budget and throughout the year, Hunefeld said.

“The money is not there,” Hunefeld said. “I can’t see how we can fund a jail from there.”

Council member Charmian Klem was not in favor of increasing the local income tax.

“I detest increasing the LIT amount,” she said, “because it won’t go away. It will always be there.”

With the jail tax, the tax would last for 20 to 22 years, depending on when it was implemented. After that, it would be eliminated.

In 2018, the state legislature approved a bill to allow counties to enact a tax rate not to exceed .2%, to be used for correctional facilities and rehabilitation facilities. Across the state, counties are needing to expand and improve outdated jails and are running into the problem of funding the costs.

If the council approves the tax before July 1, the county can use the revenue from it as it pleases for the security center project; but the tax would be in place for a maximum of 20 years. If the tax is passed after July 1, up to 20% of the revenue would have to be used for operation costs, like staffing, at the security center, and the tax would be in place for a maximum of 22 years.

Council members discussed whether this needed to be implemented by July 1. Both Klem and Council member Craig Greulich said they didn’t see the need to rush to meet the July 1 deadline. They prefer to give the public time to give their input on the idea.

“We don’t want to give people the perception that we are rushing this through,” Greulich said. “We want to give people a chance to comment.”

The study on the center is being completed and will be made available for public review no later than early next week. The Dubois County Commissioners decided Monday morning to set a public hearing for the study for 6 p.m. Monday, June 3, in the Jasper Common Council chambers at Jasper City Hall, 610 Main St.

The council will continue discussing the tax option at a special meeting, tentatively set for 6 p.m. Monday, June 10, in the commissioners/council room on the second floor of the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St. The council will likely have a draft ordinance for the tax at that meeting.

If council members decide to move forward with the tax, they will hold a public hearing at another meeting, likely their regular meeting on June 24. The hearing must be held prior to any final decision.

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