(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Commissioners have taken a stand against raising the local income tax to fund higher salaries for police and other public safety workers.
The commissioners have passed a resolution supporting no increase in a Local Income Tax (LIT) to allow other potential revenue sources for providing competitive wages to be explored.
“Our employees need raises and they need salaries that provide families livable wages,” said La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias.
La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski hopes the resolution's passage sends a strong enough message to the La Porte County Council, which has the final say on whether to increase the local income tax.
An increase in the tax from .95 percent to 1.45 percent is currently on the table.
“There’s a whole lot of other alternatives where we can draw money,” Mrozinski said.
The resolution asks the state to allow local governments more flexibility in spending money that cannot be spent on wages right now. For example, officials said that La Porte County has a local income tax fund balance of $10.3 million and close to $8 million in its emergency relief account.
In addition, officials said the county has another $7 million in reserve from proceeds shared by the state in 2006 from leasing the Indiana Toll Road. Those dollars can only be spent on transportation-related projects.
The commissioners are also requesting the state use some of its budget surplus dollars to create a trust fund to help pay local first responder salaries. The state surplus by June 30 is projected to be $5.1 billion. The resolution also calls upon the state to explore other forms of taxation that do not adversely impact "ordinary working families" to support local services.
The commissioners also expressed support for a thorough review of the county's budget to find where money could be saved and go to salaries.
Commissioner Joe Haney said it's only right the state with revenue collected from the people gives more of it back instead of padding its surplus.
"Money is best by the people. It's best invested back in the community by the people,” Haney said.
Exactly when the council will decide the matter is not known.
La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is scheduled to present why a Local Income Tax should be implemented to fund higher public safety worker salaries during Monday night's county council meeting. Dermody has publicly decried the loss of public safety employees to other communities for months, believing that wage increases would help keep some of those workers in the community.
Dermody was an Indiana State Representative for ten years before becoming mayor in 2020.