With time running out, the Pulaski County Council is still struggling to agree on a clear direction, when it comes to adjusting the county’s income taxes. Consultant Jeffrey Peters has suggested lowering the portion of income taxes designed to offset property taxes, but raising other types of income taxes to help with operations.
In order for any changes to impact the 2020 budget, the council has to finalize them by the end of next month. But before than can happen, council members have to come up with a proposal, have their attorney put it in a written ordinance, send it to the state for review, advertise it, and hold a public hearing.
Council President Jay Sullivan and Auditor Laura Wheeler discussed a few options during Monday’s meeting. Members ultimately agreed to discuss the matter further during a special meeting to be held on September 23, when they’ll also try to make more cuts to next year’s budget.
Council Member Mike Tiede once again called for the removal of the supplemental homestead credit, as a way to lower the income tax slightly while raising what homeowners end up paying in property taxes. But Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer pointed out that there are other options that would spread that increase out among all taxable property.
“I just don’t understand why, when we already discourage residents in this county with our income tax rate, we would take away property tax relief on those people first and not on everybody across the board,” Origer said. “So at BraunAbility, the land is owned by people, the Braun family, who don’t live here anymore and the Braun Corporation, which is moving its headquarters. Ceres owns how many thousands of acres of farmland. None of those people live in this county, and their property values are going down. So why would you take away relief from homeowners and not from those entities?”
Origer expressed frustration over county officials’ lack of action on the issue. “I’ve been warning the county for four years, and no one has listened until now,” he complained. “I warned you and exactly what I said was going to happen happened, and nobody listened to me. And this is where we are now. I mean, I can pull the county council minutes from 2015 where I warned you, and I was pushed aside. This has been a problem for years. The towns, the townships, the libraries have all hurt from it.”
Council President Sullivan replied, “It’s been a coming problem for years. It would’ve had to be addressed at some point in time, and up to this point, we were okay.”
Peters has projected that the county could see a $2.7 million deficit in a few years, unless changes are made.