Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana


October 10, 2012

SMITH: City-county squabbling won’t end any time soon

Mayor targets ‘double taxing’ of city residents

When Howard County officials suggested the city of Kokomo was attempting a property tax increase earlier this month, the statement drew a reaction from City Hall.

The resulting blow up, which happened largely behind the scenes, was just another indication of the tension between city and county officials in the wake of two major annexations.

The reality of next year’s city budget, set by the Kokomo Common Council at $58.9 million, is that it depends on revenue from 12 square miles of newly annexed Howard County.

But Howard County government is losing revenue directly because of the annexation. The county’s share of local income tax revenue will shrink, and property tax caps — which also affect the city’s revenues — will further reduce what the county receives.

That’s part of why — apart from Howard County Councilman John Roberts, who lives in the newly annexed Indian Heights subdivision — there aren’t any county officials openly supportive of the city’s annexation.

In fact, dating back to 2008, county officials actively took steps to thwart the annexation, both by campaigning against it in neighborhoods and by signing an anti-annexation petition on behalf of the properties the county owns.

Annexation might not have been the start of the static between city and county, but it seemed to advance it to a new level. It has been almost non-stop since then.

This week, the big controversy concerns parking downtown. Last week’s controversy dealt with the transfer of responsibility for the Emergency Management Agency and Weights & Measures department to the county.

It’s all “inside baseball” stuff, of seemingly vast importance to certain officials, but of little import to your average person.

Remember the fiery debate over whether the city was seeking a 15 percent levy increase or a 12 percent increase? Missed that one? As it turns out, the city was only entitled to receive a 9 percent increase.

But that percentage difference was a huge deal to county officials as they tried to lay out a budget. One might even say county officials had an incentive to make Mayor Greg Goodnight seem like a cash grabber.

If the city receives more, the county receives less. So exaggerating the impact of annexation — or at least presenting a worst-case scenario — to the county council could be viewed as an effective way to get the council to keep a lean budget.

It also turns out city residents probably won’t see any kind of a tax increase, although that is certainly what county officials were suggesting when they publicly announced concerns about the city’s proposed property tax levy.

Now that the mystery over the city’s property tax levy has been settled (although not without considerable acrimony), it’s on to other things.

The mayor wants the county to start leasing the parking lot the city has been providing, free of charge to the public, along downtown’s Union Street.

The lot is mainly used as a place for county employees to park, and Goodnight says it isn’t unreasonable to expect the county to provide employees with parking spaces.

The county is about 78 spaces short of having enough for its employees, but county officials just got tagged with the loss of several hundred thousand dollars in city support for EMA and Weights & Measures.

The mayor wants the county to help fund a new downtown parking garage, and the lack of a favorable county response to that unofficial request is undoubtedly contributing to the decision to cut off the county’s free parking.

County officials won’t discuss the garage, saying only they haven’t received a formal funding request. But given the level of mutual dissatisfaction, it’s doubtful county officials are ready to embrace multi-million-dollar city funding requests.

This is just a small part of the history between city and county, and rarely a week goes by without some kind of a flare-up.

There is a mayor who is determined to discontinue any type of city subsidy for the county (double taxation is usually how he refers to such issues), and there are county officials who have been used to a certain way of doing things.

That’s why we don’t foresee an end to the city vs. county Cold War any time soon.

Scott Smith covers city government for the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8569.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 23, 2014

  • CECIL BOHANON: Spend down surplus? Been there, done that Back in 1998, the state of Indiana had more than $1.3 billion in surplus funds in its general account. This was about 57 days of state spending. The state had total surplus funds of more than $2 billion that was over 24 percent of its annual operatin

    July 23, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 22, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Indiana Democrats deal with divide on education On the face of it, the battles between Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz and supporters and staff of Republican Gov. Mike Pence have been a unifying force for Indiana Democrats. But the scrapping has exposed a deep rift within the party o

    July 22, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Is Evan Bayh contemplating another gubernatorial run? This could be the saga of “LeBron Bayh.”Like a thunderhead brewing in the distance, you could see this one coming. This was the progression: former state Democratic Chairman Dan Parker announces he will not become a candidate for mayor of Indianapoli

    July 21, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: Please go away already My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven't caught up. I don't have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 21, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Internet, and future of communication One morning, I was chatting with some retired folks and the subject of paying bills on the Internet came up. One woman said she disposed of her computer years ago and pays her bills by mail. I commented she could get by just fine doing that. The othe

    July 20, 2014

  • FAITH BRAUTIGAM: Learning from others' mistakes through literature If you’ve ever been locked out of somewhere — your home, your car, your workplace — I expect you could tell me all the details of the incident, even if it was years or decades ago. Why? Our brains remember major events, and it’s a big deal to be stra

    July 20, 2014

  • RAY DAY: We need to get tough Last year I said I was going to quit trying to do anything about the shooting off of fireworks in the neighborhoods. But as anyone who knows me can say, I don't give up on things that are of utmost danger. Here it was, a week before the Fourth of Jul

    July 19, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Is this country doomed to ceaseless polarization? We Americans are trapped in a political dilemma. We all like representative democracy, but we don't much like the way it's performing. The reason for this dissatisfaction is clear. Polls in recent years detail a polarized nation, divided both ideolog

    July 18, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller