Tax expert meets with county officials

Cathy May, Contributing Writer

On August 30 Ripley County Farm Bureau held a seminar conducted by Ms. Katrina Hall, the Tax Specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. Hall served for ten years on the Indiana State Board of Tax Commissioners and is respected as the leading tax expert in Indiana.

The meeting, held at the Osgood Grub Co., was for selected Ripley County officials. Hall presented a review of the New Local Option Income Tax. This program has been offered to all counties but only eight have adopted the program because the deadline of July 31 did not give counties enough time to understand the options. The governor has now extended the deadline to the end of the year.

As Hall explained, the New Local Option Income taxes can be adopted on top of what taxes each county has already on the books. Option A is Levy Growth Replacement. Once this option is taken, it can’t be decreased or rescinded. The Department of Local Government Finance estimates the first year rate will be .4%. Then the second year the rate will go down to .2%.

Option B is a dollar for dollar replacement of property tax for income tax. There are three ways to direct the taxes: Uniform Property Tax Replacement Credit, Homestead Credit or Credit on all residential property and rental. Farm Bureau recommends the Uniform Property Tax Replacement Credit because it affects all taxpayers. This should reduce Property Tax by 27 1/2%.

To choose Option C you must have also chosen both Option A and Option B. This is new money. It is called the Public Safety Option. Hall explained that Public Safety is broadly defined. This money is shared by the county as well as cities and towns. For Ripley County, this tax of up to .25% would bring it up to $1,180,756 a year.

Part of this plan would also include a County Board of Tax Capital Project Review. It would be established on January 1 of 2009. Two of the nine-member board would be newly elected nonpartisan citizens. Other members would be appointed by elected bodies. The County Auditor would be a non-voting member unless there is a tie vote.

This board would review all rates and levies of all units. They would approve or disapprove all Capital Projects more than $7 million. The goal is to curb levy increases and coordinate projects. For example: if a school had a Capital Project of $10 million at the same time the county decided to have a project of $7.4 million, this board has the authority to make one project wait so there wouldn’t be a double burden on the taxpayer.

All three County Commissioners attended the meeting: Bob Reiners, Chuck Folz and Lawrence Nickell. Five of seven County Council members were also there: Donald Dunbar, Dephane Smith, Ed Armbrecht, Juanita Kaiser, and David Simon. The County Council now has until the end of the year to decide if they want to participate in the Local Option Income Tax.

Tax expert Katrina Hall, gives information to Ripley County officials at a special meeting sponsored by the Ripley County Farm Bureau, held last week at the Osgood Grub Co. Members of the County Council will have until the end of the year to make a decision on the tax play they feel is best for the county.