This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Meeting the candidates

Last night local Republican Party organizations hosted a "Meet the Candidates" forum at the Clauss Bakery. I was a little disappointed when the moderators announced the forum was not supposed to be a debate. Each candidate was to limit his or her presentation to two minutes.

The first candidate to speak was Ed Charbonneau who represents the northern part of Jasper County, including the northern part of Rensselaer. He is unopposed in the primary. He said that the legislature has kept the state fiscally responsible and that that accomplishment was highlighted by our neighbor the to west. He also explained how the short legislative session, which occurred this year, came about. Until the 1970s the legislature met only every other year and passed a two-year budget. Starting in the 1970s, the legislature met for emergency sessions in the even years and those meeting developed into the current short session. The short session is short because it does not deal with the budget, which is still done for two years in the odd-numbered years.

Next two of the County Commissioners, Culp and Walstra, spoke. None of the Commissioners has a primary opponent. Kendell Culp said Jasper County needs economic development so that our children can stay the county. He also explained that the $10 million that the county will be getting, mostly for roads, is a refund of tax money residents have paid as local income tax (the LOIT or Local Option Income Tax) that had been held in a trust fund by the state. The trust funds will be cleaned out and the new limit on how much the state will hold in them will be much lower.

There are four Republican candidates for the three at-large County Council seats. Each gave presentations. Unlike in national and to some extent state elections, party labels usually do not matter much at the local level. There are other divisions that are more important, and the one that seems to me to be the most important for our County Council is the issue of the proper balance of property and income taxes. Jasper County currently has the third highest county income tax in the state. I assume it has one of the lowest property taxes, but unlike the income tax rate, it is impossible to rank the counties by property tax because different areas of each county have different rates. The Council has struggled with trying to decide the right balance, with some current Council members (Jordan, Bontreger, and Fritts) voting that the current levels are a good balance while others (Price, DeVries, Norwine, and Andree) voting that lower income and higher property tax rates would be the proper balance. The dispute is not about the total amount of taxation, but rather about how taxes should be extracted. I asked one of the few questions of the night, "If you could set the county income tax at any rate, what rate would you set?" The question got about five minutes of discussion, and the numbers given were 2.2% to 2.3% from DeVries, 2.25% to 2.5% from Price, and about 2.5% from Andree. Bret Risner never gave a number. (A 2.2% income tax rate would put Jasper County slightly above the median statewide level.)

The other primary race being contested is for County Treasurer. The current Treasure, Carla Anderson, is term limited so cannot seek another term and she is also retiring. Both of the candidates, Donya G Jordan, Tammy McEwan, have served as County Treasurer in the past and both have worked for many years in the Court House.

Having spent a lot of time watching local government in the past two years, I have found that the people in it are concerned and well-intentioned. They sometimes disagree, but when they do, the disputes remain civil and the people involved treat each other with respect. That apparently does not happen in all counties. Currently Carroll County is in the news because the various people are not getting along at all.

After the forum I asked Senator Charbonneau if he had been invited to the next County Council meeting. He said that he had, but that he would not be attending. However, Senator Hershmann will be there. If you are interested in local taxes, this might be a really interesting meeting. Hershmann and DeVries had an exchange of views in the "Letters to The Editor" section of the Rensselaer Republican several weeks ago. (The reporter from the Republican asked the candidates for contact info, so I expect some in-depth profiles on the various candidates in the next few weeks.)

Earlier in the day I stopped by the Business After Hours at the Gutwein-Risner Insurance Agency. In one conversation I learned that the bowling alley has been closed for months. (And some people think I know what is going on in town.)

Below you can see the results of Thursday's tree cutting on Lincoln Street.
Earlier in the day some students at St Augustine School got a lesson on planting a garden.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspect as the Northernmost part of the county continues to grow in population, the balance of property tax vs income tax will shift.

A high income low property tax favors large landowners and retirees.
A high property low income tax favors younger commuters.