Proposed tax change for 911 center would hurt towns, townships, libraries

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - There could be some tax tinkering in St. Joseph County’s future.

A proposal unveiled Monday would not raise the local income tax rate 1.75%, but it would redistribute some of the revenue collected.

When the law called for the consolidation of 911 dispatch centers across the state, elected leaders of South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County governments stepped up to make it happen.

Now, some five years later, it’s clear that they are ready to a step back.

“Which was always, at least, intended in my mind, that we give birth, we create this new mission-critical service,” Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood said. “Now, it’s time to kind of put it off on its own, with its own funding mechanism for the long term.”

A five-year funding agreement is about to expire. The deal had St. Joseph County covering 49% of the costs of the dispatch center, with South Bend responsible for 33% and Mishawaka 16%.

The board that oversees the center on Monday put forth a new plan to dedicate to dispatch 12% of the LIT, or local income tax, expenditure rate, fully realizing the $8 million-plus that would go to the dispatch center in the future has gone elsewhere in the past.

“Most of the townships, all the cities and towns are also going to be impacted. The libraries and the airport will lose general fund dollars,” St. Joseph County Commissioner Andy Kostielney said.

The financial books at the St. Joseph County Public Library would be the hardest hit — the library would lose $466,000.

Clay Township would lose $127,000, while the town of New Carlisle will see tax revenue drop of more than $48,000.

“Of course, the city of South Bend, city of Mishawaka, St. Joe County will all still be big contributors to this,” Wood added.

The big three are now collectively paying $8.6 million a year to fund dispatch operations.

There would be no direct payment in the future under the plan, but those units would collectively lose some $6.6 million in income tax revenue proposed to be dedicated to dispatch.

For instance, St. Joseph County most recently paid about $4.27 million to support dispatch operations. That payment would stop, although the county would lose $2.9 million in local income tax collections for a net savings of $1.3 million.

South Bend most recently paid $3 million for dispatch and would lose $2.7 million to the local income tax change for a net savings of $220,794.

Mishawaka most recently paid $1.56 million for dispatch and would lose $903,000 in dedicated income tax revenue for a net savings of $657,000.

The change must be approved between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31, and it must be passed by at least two of the three governmental bodies in question (South Bend, Mishawaka, St. Joseph County).

The request will start before the St. Joseph County Council at its meeting in September.

All 13 of St. Joseph County’s townships would see revenue reductions. Madison Township would see its revenue decrease by 6% ($1,084) while Centre Township would see a decrease of 41% ($19,055).

The loss of revenue among towns in St. Joseph County range from $347 for Indian Village to $48,635 in New Carlisle.

Lakeville would lose $9,317, North Liberty would lose $16,553, Osceola would lose $13,227, Roseland would lose $29,866, and Walkerton would lose $41,274.