Last week the Marshall County Council and Commissioners conducted a joint work session to discuss the long-term Special LIT (Local Income Tax) Funding.

Commissioner President Stan Klotz opened the meeting and reminded those attending and those in the audience that no decision can be made during a work session. 

Councilman Tim Harman then explained a worksheet he created. He said, “So far this year the Sheriff’s Budgets are on pace to run a $675,000 deficit.”  He continued and said it doesn’t include additions to the JCAP expense and another $40,000 in debt making the deficit roughly $715,000.

County Auditor Angie Birchmeier said they moved 4 dispatch employees to the Special Lit with their salaries and benefits, adding another $150,000 to the debt. 

Councilman Harman said, “This is based on the pace in which the expenditures have come in.”  His projections show that the end-of-year cash balances had been going up every year until 2020 and now it’s basically flatlined.  Harman said, “If we run a million-and-a-half-dollar deficit the next 3 years, 24, 25, and 26 your cash balance is going to be $4 million.” 

The county council had initiated a discussion during their meeting about a rate reduction to the Special LIT because when they get to 2026 they don’t want to have over collected from the taxpayers.  Council President Jesse Bohannon the overage once the jail bond is paid off will be restricted to jail maintenance and he doesn’t want to have $4 million or more that has to be set aside for the jail. 

Bohannon said the research of their financial consultants, Cender Dalton indicates the county may not be able to lower that rate because the income tax has been pledged to pay the bonds, and if you lowered the rate, you would be doing a disservice legally to the bondholders.  It appears the county is “handcuffed” with the rate until the bonds are paid off.

Commissioner Klotz reminded the group that once the bonds are paid off, they will be lowered from .25 percent to .20 percent with those funds being used to assist with jail operations. 

The sheriff’s Central Dispatch costs continue to increase, and the Statewide 911 funds collected from landlines and cell phones aren’t close to covering the operations, even with the other departments in the county paying for dispatch services.  Klotz estimated the other department pays approximately $250,000.

Councilman Bohannon asked the commissioners if they could come up with a recommendation for a balance in the Special LIT for jail maintenance when the bond is paid off.  He said, “I think $4.5 million is excessive.”

The commissioners said they will spend some big money in the next year or two with additional HVAC units on the roof.  The initial estimate was $800,000.  Commissioner Kevin Overmyer said, “The jail is 16 years old now so it will need more maintenance.” 

Commissioner Klotz said the jail expenses over the last 4 or 5 years have gone up about $1 million.  He attributed the additional cost to raises and benefits for employees, along with the increased cost of food and medical care for inmates.

Bohannon said about $1.5 million was taken from the General Fund during last year’s budget process and moved into the Special LIT this year so it was easier to see the true costs of operating the jail.  He said the council will have to remember in coming years when the jail bonds are paid off and the county isn’t collecting as much income through the LIT some jail expenses will have to go back to the General Fund.

County Auditor Angie Birchmeier reminded the council, “I think you would want to have a plan moving forward before you pay that bond off to make sure we can live within the means of what we are going to get.” 

Commissioner Overmyer asked about the rate of the Public Safety Tax that could be implemented.  He was told .5% but anything over .05 would be a tax increase for citizens.  Overmyer said those funds could be dedicated to the county’s 911 and Central Dispatch Center and not split with any other public safety units in the county.

Overmyer said that since Marshall County is a CAGIT county they could go up to 3%.  If we went to .20 we could raise quite a bit.  He said, “What I hear is we don’t know the true cost of 911 because we have jailers and dispatchers.  A lot of counties have carved out Central Dispatch and 911 away from the Sheriff’s Department and made it a stand-alone organization.  Then you would have a true cost of what you are spending.” 

Bohannon commented, “Those people are serving a dual role so we would end up probably having to hire extra people to do that?”  Commissioner Mike Burroughs said they could just be dedicated to Central Dispatch or the Jail.

Overmyer suggested looking at separating that during the changeover with the next sheriff’s election. 

Councilman Harman asked if they could find the true costs to operate the jail and dispatch and the Auditor said she would try by working with the jail director and 911 director to determine who’s working in which position.   

Without making any decision, the joint work session of the County Council and Commissioners ended in 30 minutes.