As Union County Council looks forward to its annual budget process, Baker Tilly partner and CPA Jason Semler discussed options for increasing tax revenue for the upcoming year at the June 18 meeting.

Of interest to council is establishing a Public Safety Local Income Tax, which can be used to fund a variety of services including law enforcement, jails, courts and emergency medical services. Semler informed council the county's current income tax rate sits at 1.75 percent; 1.5 percent of that rate is tied directly to expenditures and the maximum allowable county income tax rate is 2.5 percent.

County council holds the right to institute a public safety tax within the 2.5 percent maximum. For every 0.1 percent of tax levy raised, the county will see approximately $145,000 in revenue. The tax levy can be instituted on a year-by-year basis and if set in place by Oct. 31 of this year, the tax will be collected next year.

At the request of councilmember Richard Blank, Semler explained the steps required to pass such a tax. An ordinance is first drafted by a local attorney, published for review by county residents, a public hearing is held and then voted on by council. Semler recommends sending the ordinance draft to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to review prior to publication and public hearing.

Blank inquired about the impact the COVID-19 shutdown will have on income tax for the county. Semler informed council the tax distributions for 2021 are based on what residents earned in 2019. Semler does not expect a significant reduction next year but warned that any impact from the pandemic will show up in 2022.

Semler will send council members a detailed outline of the steps for the process and calculations on how the different tax rates will affect the county's revenue. Blank noted that while some expenses are still being ironed out for next year, the county is looking at approximately $70,000 coming out of the general fund.

Also discussed:

Union County Recorder Lavinia Herzog requested a transfer of funds to purchase a new server for the office. To purchase the new equipment, Herzog needs to transfer $15,718 from the identity protection fund into the perpetuation fund. The identity protection fund is a self-sustaining account that is funded by transactions through the recorder's office. Council approved the transfer.

Auditor Cheryl Begley presented an alteration to the county's salary ordinance. The prosecutor's child support assistant had recently retired. The full-time position has since been filled with a part-time employee; Blank noted the position will probably remain part time until the courts reopen. Begley explained the change will not require any additional funds but is required to meet guidelines with the State Board of Accounts.

Blank notified council the Town of Liberty has agreed to pay 50 percent of the costs of the Public Safety Answering Point equipment upgrade with a cap of $60,000.