Hamilton County leaders may raise taxes to pay for 911 center
Hamilton County considers tax hike for 911 center
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A new tax is on the table for residents in Hamilton County.
Officials tell News 8 the money is needed to fund operations at the 911 center and free up money for each community in the county.
The proposal is an income tax of 0.1%.
The idea is to find a new way to pay for the 911 center and operations. Instead of billing each community government with places like Carmel or Fishers paying their share, it would be paid for by individual residents through an income tax.
The math is pretty easy. If you make $100,000, you would have to pay $100 a year, a little less than $10 bucks per month.
The more controversial part of the equation is it would bring millions more than the current system.
Dispatchers answer about 500,000 calls a year in Hamilton County with about 300,000 resulting in a response from emergency personnel. The current budget of $11.4 million is still not enough said Jeff Schemmer, Executive Director of Communications for Hamilton County.
The call volume is going up and so are costs — enough that cities and townships say they can’t afford it.
That’s why a Local Income Tax or LIT is on the table.
It would raise $15.4 million annually through paychecks eliminating the need to bill cities and townships.
“We’ve determined it’s the fairest means to distribute the costs to everybody in the county and fund the center,” said Schemmer.
The percentage amount of 0.1% is the smallest allowed by state law. It can go up to 0.25%.
Perhaps the most controversial part is it would create an extra $7 million of revenue annually to 911. The county also receives about $3.4 million from the state’s 911 fund annually.
Schemmer said if the LIT passes, 911 would take on additional expenses immediately like starting to pay for police and firefighter radios around the county at a cost of $2.5 million, freeing up additional revenue for communities.
“It does add up quick,” he said.
It would also allow the county to build a new 911 center within the next five years.
He knows the words “new tax” can be dirty words, “but this is a tax you’re going to see exactly what it’s going to.”
He believes this is the best way to move forward with an eye to the future so someone is always ready to answer the call.
“Things are going to grow. The goal is to provide the citizens of Hamilton County the absolute best in public safety response.”
Currently, communities and townships pay to support the 911 center using a formula based on the number of calls for service within the community. The county has also been helping subsidize the cost of extra calls but is decreasing its percentage every year.
Schemmer said some townships are especially strapped with the mounting bills.
For this idea to pass, city or county councils representing at least 50% of residents have to pass it.
Arcadia has already done so. Westfield is expected to discuss the idea at its meeting on Monday. Carmel and Fishers both have city council meetings set for Sept. 16.
The votes have to happen before the end of the month. If passed it would go into effect Jan. 1.