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County is in ‘great financial condition’

LaGrange County is in “great financial condition” for the 2018 budget year. Jeff Peters, principal in Peters Municipal Consultants, made the pronouncement at the Monday meeting of the LaGrange County Council.

LaGrange County residents will start paying an additional ¼ percent of adjusted gross income tax October 1. This tax money will be forwarded to the county starting in January 2018. It is anticipated that the new public safety income tax will generate about $1.8 million a year. This money must all be spent for public services such as fire protection, police protection, or emergency medical services. The county’s share is expected to be about $1.4 million a year with the four incorporated towns receiving an estimated total of $400,000.

Indiana’s Department of Local Government Finance has announced that tax levies will be allowed to grow 4 percent for 2018. This percentage is calculated by averaging the gross increase in wages over the last six years.

This 4 percent increase in general tax revenue plus the income tax puts LaGrange County in a position whereby county council can allow the overall general fund budget to expand between 3 and 4 percent and still have somewhere near ½ million dollars left.

This amount will most likely be added to the cash reserves of the county, which are expected to be at nearly 30 percent of the budget at year end.

The LaGrange County general fund tax rate is 0.3250 per $100 of assessed value for 2017. Rates in other counties range from a low in Kosciusko County of 0.2323 to 0.2461 in Whitley County, 0.2749 in Steuben County and a high of 0.4506 which places LaGrange County nearly in the middle of the pack.

LaGrange County’s adjusted gross income tax rate for 2018 will be 1.4 percent. The maximum allowable income tax rate is 3.75 percent in Indiana.

There are two outstanding bond issues for LaGrange County. The general obligation bond still to be paid on the LaGrange County Jail is about $2 million and there is a short-term technology bond of about ½ million dollars that will be paid off soon.

Council members set a budget meeting for 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 14. At this meeting council members will listen as office holders and department heads present budgets for 2018.

Budget hearings have been set for Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 11 and 12. At these meetings, council members will be discussing budget requests for 2018 with office holders and department heads.