The Noblesville Common Council has voted in favor of a resolution that will increase the local income tax rate by 0.1 percent to help fund 911 operations, making it the third of the “big four” cities in Hamilton County to do so. The approval served as the deciding vote for the county.
The town council of Arcadia, a town of 1,600 people north of Cicero, recently voted in favor of the tax, triggering a process that required it to be voted on by the remaining seven Hamilton County city and town councils. To go into effect, councils representing more than half of the county’s population had to approve the tax increase.
Noblesville represents 17.4 percent of the 50 percent necessary to approve the county-wide increase. The cities of Fishers, representing 28.95 percent, and Westfield, representing 12.34 percent have approved resolutions on the agreement. The Town of Atlanta, representing 0.24 percent, also voted in favor of the increase at a Sept. 24 meeting.
As of press time, Carmel, which represents 29.11 percent, had not voted on the resolution, and Cicero, which represents 1.61 percent, was set to take a vote at its Sept. 26 meeting. Sheridan, representing 0.89 percent, will vote Oct. 2.
However those votes technically aren’t needed, as the Noblesville Common Council’s unanimous decision surpassed the 50 percent threshold, taking the overall approval to approximately 59 percent.
“(The county has) talked about raising this fee for over 10 years, and 10 years ago I probably would not have voted yes, but we live in a different world than we did 10 years ago,” Councilor Rick Taylor said. “I think all of us have a responsibility to keep our citizens safe and definitely keep our public safety people safe…it’s basically good for the whole community.”
Historically, the county’s cities have helped subsidize the service for the small towns and townships, which include Atlanta, Arcadia, Cicero, Jackson Township, Sheridan, Wayne Township and White River Township.
Now, Hamilton County’s small towns and townships are responsible to jointly contribute $500,000 annually, an amount determined based on the number of calls to an area. The county agreed to phase in the amount they owe, with $50,000 due in 2019 and the amount increasing by 10 percent each year until they are paying the full amount. In the meantime, the county will fund the difference.
“I applaud the members of our common council for approving this resolution,” Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear said in a statement. “The advantage of this proposal is it distributes the funding of 911 emergency services across the county so Noblesville is no longer paying its cost at a disproportionate rate to the services we receive. The proposed solution is the most equitable manner to fund 911 emergency dispatches and eliminates the cumbersome cost allocation system we use today.”
Instead of municipalities paying their portion, Hamilton County will collect and distribute the funding. While Noblesville nor any city voting on the agreement will receive revenue, the four cities will save money. In 2019, Noblesville paid 1,081,406.57 for 911 dispatch services. In the future, that money can now be used elsewhere in the city budget.
“The money saved from the proposal approved today will allow us to fund other public safety needs so we may continue providing the level of service that our community deserves and expects from our police and fire professionals,” said Councilor Roy Johnson, head of the city’s public safety committee.
At the county level, Hamilton County stands to receive approximately $3 million in revenue, according to Mike Howard, who serves as the attorney for both the Hamilton County Commissioners and City of Noblesville.
“There have been some questions about how this will raise revenue when combined with the phone fees that generate a little over $3 million a year I think Hamilton County, we proved about a year ago that we have an A1 operation, and we sure want to keep it that way,” Howard said, referencing the May 25, 2018, shooting at Noblesville West Middle School. “There are some substantial costs coming up. The (communications) center that is in the lower level of the jail, they’re outgrowing that rapidly. The demand for services from our population increases every day. In addition, there are new software systems that can be out there that aren’t (currently) in the budget.”
The one-tenth of 1 percent increase means that a person earning $50,000 will pay $50 more per year.
The proposed tax increase will go into effect January 1, 2020.
Editor’s note: Ann Marie Shambaugh contributed to this report.