The tax hikes started last November when voters in Clark and Pleasant townships passed a school referendum needed to pay for increased security and mental health initiatives.
A second school referendum quickly followed in Franklin, Needham and Union townships.
Then came a new income tax to pay for a long-awaited — and now mandated — jail expansion.
Now, a third school referendum is on the fall ballot in White River Township, and a fourth is being considered in Edinburgh.
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Another income tax hike could be on the way too, as could an increase in property taxes to pay for a new library. Both of those are still in the planning stages and neither are up for a vote.
Workers who own property in the Franklin and Clark-Pleasant school districts have been forced to pay two new taxes this year, with most projected to pay between $500 and $600 more annually in the form of income taxes and higher property tax bills. And they could face more increases as the county council considers how to pay for millions of dollars in needed road work and whether to OK a library plan that would raise property taxes.
Workers who own property in White River Township could soon see the same if a proposed school referendum is OKed by voters next month.
Most homeowners in the county, except those in Greenwood and Edinburgh, could see their property taxes go up again if the council agrees to raise property taxes for improvements to the Johnson County Public Library, including a new branch in the New Whiteland area.
Finding the money
Referendums to fund school projects and income tax hikes have gained traction with school and government entities in the last decade, said Michael Hicks, an economics professor and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University.
Indiana took over school funding, which left local homeowners paying for larger school projects, such as capital construction projects, Hicks said.
Referendums became a way for schools to get projects done and gave schools another option to seek more taxes to complete those projects, he said.
Raising income taxes has also become a popular funding option with among government entities as TIF funds are now capturing a lot of the money available to local government agencies, Hicks said.
However, Johnson County is rapidly growing and new taxes to fund quality public services will help further that growth. The more growth the county experiences, the more people there are paying taxes, which will lighten the tax load for everyone, he said.
“What Johnson County has to do is compete with the people who have jobs in the greater Indianapolis area,” Hicks said.
Grappling with growth is part of a possible $110 million tax increase that would be used to update roads to ready the area for Interstate 69, which is expected to bring even more growth to the county.
How it started
First came the OK from taxpayers in Clark and Pleasant townships to raise property taxes to help pay for increased security and mental health initiatives at its schools.
Then in May, residents who live in the Franklin Community Schools district approved a similar tax hike to increase teacher salaries and implement mental health initiatives for students.
Center Grove Schools has a referendum on the ballot this fall that would cost most homeowners in the district more than $100 more in property taxes annually to pay for much of the same, including increased security and mental health initiatives.
Edinburgh Community Schools is now considering following suit with a referendum that would raise teacher salaries, pay for capital projects and replace outdated school buses.
The Johnson County Public Library is also seeking property tax dollars to help pay for county-wide improvements, including constructing a new library in the New Whiteland area, which is projected to cost homeowners less than $30 annually.
County workers in all four school districts are already paying for the jail expansion. That tax passed earlier this year and took effect last week.
A second income tax hike to pay for road work related to Interstate 69 being built through Johnson County is being discussed and could be passed later this year.
Edinburgh workers and homeowners would be subject to two of the taxes, including the income tax hike and a possible referendum.
Trafalgar workers and homeowners would also be subject to two of the taxes, including the income tax hike and a possible property tax hike for the library.
Greenwood workers and homeowners would only be subject to the income tax hike, as Greenwood has its own library and the school district is not seeking a referendum.
Voters who live in Franklin and Clark-Pleasant school districts have both approved property tax hikes in the last year that are costing property owners more money annually. Franklin’s money is going toward teacher pay raises and mental health counselors, while Clark-Pleasant’s additional money is paying for increased school safety, mostly in the form of building its own police department.
Center Grove Schools unveiled plans earlier this year for a fall referendum that would increase property taxes by 11.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value, which would bring in an additional $24.8 million over the course of eight years starting in 2020, if passed next month. It would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $112 per year in property taxes.
Clark-Pleasant’s property tax bill went up 10 cents for every $100 of assessed value for eight years after voters OKed the referendum last fall. For the owner of a $123,500 home, which is the median home value in the school district, the increase would cost them about $48 more in property taxes each year. That will bring in about $1.5 million to the school district annually. School officials have said nearly a million of it is being used on police officers and equipment.
Voters living in Franklin’s school district approved a property tax hike of 23 cents for every $100 of assessed property value in the spring election. For the median-priced home in that area, valued at $128,500, a homeowner is expected to pay $118 more per year.
Franklin’s aim was to increase the base teacher salary in the district to $40,000 from $37,500. The tax is also expected to put about $3.5 million annually into the school’s coffers to fund the raises and mental health counselors school officials want.
Johnson County’s jail is chronically overcrowded, and county officials are planning an expansion of the criminal justice center that is expected to cost about $25 million dollars, although the exact cost is not known yet.
The county is also planning significant road and bridge work that could come with an expected price tag of $110 million over the course of about five years. Most of the work is related to readying the roads in the Center Grove area for increased traffic once Interstate 69 and its three exits are built in Johnson County.
The Johnson County Council has considered multiple income taxes for people who live and work in the county to raise the money, and the tax that would fund the jail expansion has already started coming out of local workers’ paychecks.
All the income tax options the county council is considering differ in the amounts, whether other local governments would get any of the money and limitations on what the money can be spent on.
Residents already pay a 1.20 income tax rate with the recently instated jail expansion tax.
In the first years, that tax hike would bring in about $9 million more per year, and the county could use the money to pay for the added costs of staffing and operating a bigger jail. In future years, the money could be used for other correctional facilities, such as community corrections.
The options considered to fund upcoming road work includes an economic development income tax increase of 0.35 percent. Of all the money collected, cities and towns would get to keep a share. The county is asking for cities and towns to support and approve returning 65 percent of their increased collections to the county.
The second option includes a combined economic development income tax increase of 0.21 percent and a local income tax increase of 0.20 percent. Under this proposal, other entities such as the county library system, townships and fire protection districts would get some of the money through the local income tax rate. This proposal would provide some new funding to the county library system, which wants to build a new branch and remodel others, and to fire departments, which have said they need to hire more firefighters.
Library property taxes
Library-goers who use the Clark-Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library have said the library needs more space.
Library officials have said events such as story times fill up fast and the current branch does not have visibility from U.S. 31 at its current location on Tracy Road in Whiteland.
The county library system wants to build an $8.8 million branch to replace the current branch, which has been housed in a 10,000 square foot office building in the same parking lot as the town’s police department since 2002.
The new facility would be nearly double the size, but would still be the smallest of the library system’s branches.
The library would pay for about 16 percent of the project with money that it has in savings, but would need to raise property taxes for everyone in the library district — including those in Trafalgar, Franklin and White River Township — to pay for the projects being considered.
The library asked the county council to approve a property tax hike of about 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. Residents who own a $100,000 home would pay $8.19 more a year, and owners of a $175,000 home about $20.38 more in property taxes.
Property owners in the library’s district would be affected by the property tax hike. The library system covers most of the county, excluding Greenwood and Edinburgh, which have separate city and town libraries that serve those residents.
The county council has tabled the discussion for now.
By the numbers
Here is a look at how each of the taxes that have been passed or are being considered would affect residents of Franklin, Needham, Union, Clark, Pleasant and White River townships annually:
Jail expansion income tax, economic development income tax and local income tax increase:
$30,000 household income: $172
$50,000 household income: $286
$75,000 household income: $429
$100,000 household income: $573
$150,000 household income: $859
$175,000 household income: $1,002
NOTE: Under this proposal, other entities such as the library, townships and fire protection districts would get a share of the additional money by way of the local income tax hike.
Jail expansion income tax and economic development income tax:
$30,000 household income: $153
$50,000 household income: $255
$75,000 household income: $383
$100,000 household income: $510
$150,000 household income: $765
$175,000 household income: $893
NOTE: Of the additional tax dollars collected, cities and towns would get a share, but the county would ask that the cities and towns return 65 percent of those additional tax dollars to pay for roads in the economic development income tax.
The county council is still considering a tax increase for road funding. The tax increase to pay for the jail expansion was approved. Here is the breakdown for just the jail expansion income tax hike:
Franklin Community Schools tax hike
$100,000 home; increase of $75.33
$128,500 home; increase of $117.93
$170,000 home; increase of $179.98
This tax was approved by voters in a referendum.
Clark-Pleasant Schools tax hike
$100,000 home; increase of $33
$123,500 home; increase of $48
$170,000 home; increase of $81
This tax was approved by voters in a referendum.
Center Grove Schools tax hike
The proposed referendum is 11.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value, which would bring in an additional $24.8 million over the course of eight years starting in 2020. It would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $112 per year in property taxes.
This referendum is on the fall ballot.
Johnson County Public Library tax hike
$100,000 home; $8.19 increase per year
$175,000 home; $20.38 increase per year
$250,000 home; $32.56 increase per year
The county council is still considering this proposed tax increase.