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Council discusses tax increase to improve public safety

By KEVIN GREEN - kgreen@thecouriertimes.com

SPICELAND — A decision has not been made, but town council members recently discussed the idea of a small tax increase to provide additional funds needed to improve public safety.

Council member Pam Stigall broached the subject by suggesting the community’s part-time code enforcement and law enforcement efforts be combined. She also said funding for the Spiceland Township Volunteer Fire Department could be increased.

Stigall noted the town only receives about $5,000 of public safety local option income tax money from the county annually and said that isn’t enough to meet the community’s public safety needs.

“We are really concerned about keeping our fire department current and are trying to look at ways to fund their growing needs,” Stigall said.

She also noted that thanks to the Indiana Municipal Power Agency’s addition of a new solar park in the town, Spiceland’s electric consumers will see a reduction in their monthly bills of an estimated $5, which totals an annual savings of approximately $60 per household.

Stigall suggested the council consider an increase in the local property tax rate that would average $60 per property owner annually and using the funds generated to cover the cost for improving public safety. This approach, she said, would essentially be a wash for the community’s taxpayers while improving law and code enforcement as well as fire protection.

“They’d be paying what they paid as of last December, but they’d be gaining in fire protection and other areas,” she said.

Stigall said the approximate $24,000 per year her suggested move would generate could be split equally between law and code enforcement efforts and the fire department, with the law/code enforcement position having $12,000 available and the fire department getting a like amount.

The idea hit a snag when town clerk-treasurer Dawn Mogg said the council can’t increase the local property tax rate by $5 per household annually, that at most the increase could only amount to about half that.

That would mean, she said, only half as much additional revenue per year for each of the two primary public safety components Stigall wants to improve.

Spiceland Township Trustee Donna Tauber, who was in attendance at the council’s last meeting when this idea was discussed, noted that if the fire department isn’t properly funded and doesn’t meet certain criteria, homeowner insurance rates for those properties served by the Spiceland volunteers could increase substantially, which might also make the Stigall’s proposal more palatable to town residents.

Mogg pointed out it’s too late to initiate a tax increase for this year and action on Stigall’s idea was tabled. It will likely be revisited later this year.

The Spiceland Town Council meets at 6 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month at Town Hall, 130 E. Main St. The meetings are open to all interested persons.