I am very concerned about the prospect and process of approval for the income tax proposed by the Boone County Sheriff, Mike Nielsen.
From what I have read, Neilsen has been vague on details for the proposal. When pressed for a number, Neilsen suggested a tax of .5 percent or 1 percent of income. Nielsen said the tax would be $400 or $800 per year for a family with an income of $80,000, and “it would not be a substantial tax increase.” I disagree that this is not a substantial increase, and so would many families in Boone County that live paycheck to paycheck. I also disagree with Nielsen’s statement that “the county really has no other choice.”
If the nearly 60,000 residents of Boone County are in only 15,000 households with an average income of $40,000, this would mean the Sheriff’s office would generate between $3 and $6 million with this tax. From the reports I read, Sheriff Nielsen has not given adequate justification to increase revenues by this amount. There have not been reports of sweeping crime waves besetting Boone County.
I am particularly troubled by the lack of transparency for this proposal. On the Boone County Sheriff Office’s website, I searched for terms including budget, finance, tax, expense or revenue, and there were “no results found.” I expect more citizen involvement about a proposed income tax from a sheriff, whose personal message on the BCSO website states, “We believe strongly in engaging citizens in good, old-fashioned conversations.” The citizens who are subject to an income tax need to be involved in the process.
It would be helpful to understand the BCSO current budget, the specific needs that require funding, and the amount of funding required to meet those needs. Taxpayers should be informed about how their elected officials plan to spend their tax money. While some community leaders would urge us to enthusiastically support law enforcement without question, it is difficult to overlook news reports of unethical behavior among the ranks of law enforcement in Indiana, including the circumstances forcing resignation of Neilsen’s predecessor in the BCSO.
I am concerned that this new tax is to be approved by our elected officials and not put to a popular vote. The point of putting property tax caps in the state constitution was to restrain government spending. As with the taxes approved for supporting our local schools, new income taxes should be subject to a popular vote. In this way, the community would be better informed about the need and purposes of this proposed tax and be able to decide for themselves if the proposal represents a substantial tax increase and also provide input on other choices we have to fund law enforcement.