By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Zionsville Town Councilor Tom Schuler won’t be present at the special meeting Oct. 11 for a county-wide vote on implementing a local income tax for public safety.
He’ll be out of town for work, but he made his opinion clear at a heated Sept. 26 council meeting.
Schuler was the lone councilor to speak against the tax, which is proposed at .5 percent of adjusted gross income. With the Boone County Council already voting in support, only the Zionsville Town Council or Lebanon City Council must approve the LIT Oct. 11 for it to go into effect Jan. 1.
Among Schuler’s concerns was the fact that taxpayers don’t get a direct vote as they do for school district referendums, for example. State law leaves the decision to elected officials, who last implemented a county tax in 1986 when they approved the county option income tax at 1 percent.
Schuler said most people he’s approached don’t know about the tax and those who do haven’t expressed support.
“The response I’ve gotten, and I know the other councilors have gotten, has been negative,” he said. “It would be better to educate people on why this is so important and what the shortfalls are before we make a decision up here.”
Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen, who is spearheading the initiative to pass the LIT, said his experience has been just the opposite, although he expressed frustration at the lack of turnout at public meetings to discuss the proposal.
“Everybody that I talk to understands this,” Nielsen told the council. “They are willing to support this tax to support public safety.”
Schuler also said he opposes the tax because the council voted to fund a new town hall knowing that local public safety had been underfunded for years. He was the only councilor to not vote in support of the town hall project.
He’s also worried that LIT funds could be used to pay for the town hall, as it will house the fire department administration offices.