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Taxes, road funding top issues for local leaders

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 24, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.

GOSHEN — Get ready to listen state lawmakers, because local leaders have some suggestions on how to handle taxes and road funding.

Elkhart County and city officials pared down a long list of key budget issues Wednesday, July 24, to prepare for a meeting with legislators in early September.

At the top of the list is local option income taxes and how they are structured. Because of property tax caps, the cities and the county have had declining revenues that pay for public services, like safety. More flexibility is needed, county commissioner Mike Yoder said, adding that he hopes the meeting with the legislators will “drive home what the tax caps really mean.”

Yoder asked Wednesday whether the county would be open to more local option income taxes to offset the effect of the caps, and county council president John Letherman was opposed.

“The answer has always been no because we’re not getting back what we’re paying down there now,” Letherman said, referring to the state department of revenue in Indianapolis. “There are large amounts of money that are not coming back because people don’t file tax returns.”

Road funding is another top issue the county and city officials hope to take up with legislators. The cost of maintaining roads is continuing to rise while funding is shrinking. The state’s general fund surplus is partly made up of sales tax revenues from gasoline, Yoder said. One potential solution would be to spend some of those funds on highways, he suggested.

Other topics the city and county officials hope to hit on include 911 funding and changes to criminal sentencing that will affect work release programs around the state.