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Income tax may raise to support juvenile services

The Monroe County Council showed support for raising a local income tax April 8. But the council pushed for the tax to cover even more expenses than it already does, raising questions that led the council to delay a vote on the issue. The tax is known as the Juvenile County Option Income Tax. It originally supported only the county’s Youth Services Bureau.

But in recent years the county has also used the tax to pay for juvenile probation officers. Now, Council President Geoff McKim said the council would also like to use the tax revenue for maintenance and other expenses.

“We decided to broaden the scope of the expenses that we would consider could be paid out of the juvenile county option income tax,” McKim says, “I created a committee to work with courts, YSB and the commissioners office to come up with a more accurate accounting of the costs of running our juvenile facilities.”

At a recent work session, Circuit Court Judge Steve Galvin asked the council to increase the tax. But he said his request, which would have brought the tax as high as .085 percent, needs to be increased even further.

“We presented what we thought were the bare budget amounts necessary to provide for juvenile services,” Galvin says, “However we didn’t include amounts for utilities, repairs, maintenance, security and other one-time expenses over the next five years. So we added those in and suggested a rate, but the rate is entirely up to the council.”

If the council agreed to Galvin’s request, it would nearly double the rate for that particular tax. Under the proposed rate, a county resident who earns $30,000 next year would pay $28.58 towards the juvenile services.

United Way of Monroe County Launch Free Community Tax Service

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United Way of Monroe County and the Financial Stability Alliance for South Central Indiana and partners have launched the Free Community Tax Service for this year in Monroe and Owen counties. Community Initiative Director, Ashley Hall says the program started four years ago.

“A lot of our sites in the community had been offering volunteer tax assistance many years before that, but they hadn’t come together as a cohesive program,” Hall says, “United Way came on board to bring together these people working on it and to bring on board people we had hoped to get involved.”

As the service continues to grow it has been able to provide help to more people in the community.

“The program expands every year we offer it,” Hall says, “There are more sites and options. Not only are there full-service, one-on-one options, there are self-service sites and an online option you can do anytime. We have continued to utilize more volunteers from the community, and we already have about 200 IRS-certified volunteers.”

Individuals can file their own taxes for free at a self-service site at WorkOne or online at MyFreeTaxes.com/Bloomington. A few locations that the Mobile sites will visit include Bloomington Housing Authority, LifeDesigns, Positive Link and Stone Belt. Hall says the purpose of the program is to offer free tax preparation and to make sure residents know they are eligible for valuable credits.

“The credit is important because we know that about 25 percent of people eligible don’t claim their credit,” Hall says.

For more information on the Free Community Tax Service you can visit MonroeUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxes.

Monroe County Treasurer’s Office Late On Financial Reports.

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Two Monroe County officials gave a presentation Tuesday in hopes of quelling fears about a looming financial dilemma.

The officials spoke before the County Council about the fact that the County Treasurer’s Office has fallen several months behind on required financial reports.

Without filing the monthly documents, the county would be unable to distribute tax money to other units within the County, potentially leaving local governments like the city of Bloomington and the town of Ellettsville unable to meet their obligations.

Although the office hasn’t filed a report since May, County Treasurer Cathy Smith said her staff made up for lost time in recent weeks.

“We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the Auditor’s and Commissionors Office in keeping up to speed with where we are each day,” Smith said, “I think it’s fair to say that we are in the final preparations to approve a settlement.”

The County Auditor’s Office needs to approve the reports by Dec. 20 in order to send money on to other governmental units.

Auditor Steve Saulter said he’s confident the money will be distributed, even if the entire process is not complete in time.

Saulter said that’s partly because the law allows him to distribute 95% of the money before all the approvals are finished.

“I can’t promise we’ll get the whole settlement process done with the timing and holidays,” Saulter said, “We’ll complete the process the first week of January.”

During the presentation, Smith made another request to the County for a fifth employee in her office. She said that would help address future issues like this one, which she said was caused by the loss of a staff member.

“We don’t want to lose someone with all the knowledge again,” Smith said, “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Several members of the County Council thanked the Treasurer’s office for working to complete the reports before the deadline. Council President Geoff McKim said the county avoided what could have been a “pretty serious problem,”

Medical Device Tax Hits Close to Home

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As Americans prepare for the onset of the Affordable Care Act next year, the medical device industry in Indiana is still pushing for a repeal of a tax that was passed along with the Act in 2009. The medical device industry is one of the largest employers in Monroe County, and throughout Indiana. There are roughly three hundred and twenty-five device companies in the state, and Cook Medical alone employs about thirty-five hundred people in the region around Bloomington. With the implementation of the Act just over two months away, predictions vary about what effect it will have on the industry, and whether the tax will remain in place. WFHB Assistant News Director Joe Crawford brings us the story for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

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