County Council discusses Sewer District, TEC Building, possible new county tax

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The Switzerland County Council met on Wednesday, May 10th, and covered several major areas of discussion.

Here’s a look at the meeting:

East Enterprise Regional Sewer District

County Auditor Gayle Rayles had a question about the invoice she received from Umbaugh for a rate study fro the East Enterprise Regional Sewer District. The Council thought there were two rate studies performed, but there was only one, and the invoice was for that study. This is part of the grant process, and the cost of the study will be reimbursed if the District receives the grant. Council member Rachel Schuler made motion to approve the invoice for $4,000 from Umbaugh, seconded by Council member Mike Bear, and all agreed.

Debbie Vann of the East Enterprise Regional Sewer District informed the Council that it had a major spill recently into a pond in one of the subdivisions. The District immediately took action to correct the situation. They do not have any extra pumps or equipment on hand to fix a problem quickly; so they have to send out the bad pump and then wait for it to come back from repairs. Water leaked into the pond; not raw sewage.

The District asked the County Council for financial help to fix this spill and get some backup parts/pumps; pay attorney fees; pay for chemicals; etc. Council member Glenn Scott said he would like to go out and view the system – as did some of the other council members – to get a better understanding of the situation. There is an operator and bookkeeper who are paid by the sewer district.

After further discussion, Council member Elizabeth Jones made a motion to approve payment to Hack’s Septic, as it is a local business, for $4,875, seconded by Council member Andy Haskell, and the motion carried, with Bear voting no.

Later in the meeting, Vann said that the District is needing and additional $5,000 over what was previously approved to cover bills that are due.

The council would like to go out and see the sewer district, since it is always requiring additional money.

It was asked about the county taking ownership of the sewer district. If things are not fixed, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) will step in and tell the county what to do and what to charge for fees and the county would still have to pay for repairs at who knows what the cost.

After some discussion about the grant, needed maintenance, and customers paying their bills, Council member Lisa Fisher made a motion to give the East Enterprise Regional Sewer District an additional $5,000 to finishing paying off the current bills, seconded by Council member John Gary Welch, and the motion carried with a vote of 5-2; with members Haskell and Bear voting no.

Switzerland County TEC Building

The council had to sign the resolution for the bond issue for the TEC Building. The building appraised for $1.5 million and $2.2 million, but it can’t be sold for less than the average of the two appraisals. The appraisals cover only the building, it does not include the parking lot and generator.

After discussion, Welch made a motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Schuler, and all agreed.

The debt reserve for the 2009 bonds was reduced to $83,000 and is now in a separate fund.

Scott noted that the gutters at the TEC building were full because of balls kids had thrown on the roof. There was a minimum of 7,000 gallons of water on the roof, which would equal about 56,000 pounds of weight.

Scott and his dad, Tom Scott, helped clean out the gutters. There currently isn’t any access to the roof, and Scott is going to the next County Commissioners’ meeting to see about correcting the situation. He will suggest ladders attached to the outside of the building.

Belterra Tax Dispute

Rayles informed the council that the property taxes due to the casino currently, providing nothing changes in the appeal, is $176,551.38. It could change when the other two years come up for appeal, but it is hoped that Belterra may drop the appeal of the other two years, once a final resolution is made at the state level.

The interest was $56,609.69 as of May 5th, which is a total of $233,161.07. On a daily basis the amount will increase by $14.51.

Rayles reported to the council members that Belterra will not take the payment now. This most likely will not be settled before a year or two.

Public Safety Tax

The Public Safety Tax is the tax that Auditor Rayles spoke to council about at the April meeting.

The county could actually raise the county option income tax to 1.25-percent (it is currently at 1-percent), and designate all or part of the increase to public safety.

This money would go into a separate fund designated for 911 only. This would allow the county to take 911 out of the general fund budget.

This would affect all residents and/or workers in Switzerland County.

Using .25-percent it could equal almost $400,000 per year. The money that would be freed up in the general fund could be used for courthouse security and/or maintenance. To make this effective for January 1st, 2018, the process has to be completed by October 31st, 2017. Quite a few other counties are already doing this.

There would need to be one public hearing and then read it at two public meetings. Rayles will bring it up again at the July meeting.

Legislative Update

When the State legislative session began, there were actually two bills being introduced that would affect riverboat revenue. One of the bills died since the two were so similar. This bill (House Bill 1350 introduced by Todd Houston) changes the admissions tax to a supplemental wagering tax. Rather than there being $3 applied to each person going in, they are going to do a percentage of the adjusted gross receipts.

For Switzerland County this percentage is 3.11-percent, and could fluctuate a bit based on the community.

The other part is that the “hold harmless” dollars are going to decrease in 2021. What the legislature will do is look at the adjusted gross receipts in 2021 across the state, and if the receipts have gone down over the year then they will decrease the $48,000,000 proportionately.

Marissa Lynch, Jon Bond, and Commissioner Josh South all met with Legislator Houston and explained what Switzerland County does with its riverboat revenue. After this meeting, Representative Houston agreed to amend the bill, but it still was a decrease in the “hold harmless” money.

The switch from admissions tax to supplemental wagering tax is to happen in fiscal year 2018 and then the effect on the “hold harmless” money will go into effect in 2021.

AIC

Jacque Clements of the Association of Indiana Counties came to introduce herself and her services in the budget preparation area. This service is through the Association of Indiana Counties. Her services would replace GFC, who is the current vendor, and her cost would be $5,000 per year. The AIC just started this assistance.

She can help with estimated revenues, income tax questions the budget process, provide reports, and etc.

Fisher made a motion to use Clements and the services provided through the AIC, seconded by Bear and all agreed. The commissioners will actually sign the contract.