Lake County Council OKs tax
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent May 6, 2013 11:34PM
LaVetta Sparks-Wade of Gary speaks out against the proposed income tax during a meeting of the Lake County Council Monday afternoon at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 7, 2013 8:10PM
Crown Point — The 1.5 percent Lake County income tax package is one step closer to reality but it still has two high hurdles to cross.
Monday Lake County Council members in a special meeting in front of more than 250 residents approved the income tax package by a 4-3 margin. The group was the largest and most diverse yet, almost equally divided between those who oppose and those who support the tax.
Republican Councilmen Eldon Strong, Crown Point, and Daniel Dernulc, Highland, maintained their stance against new taxes before all cuts possible have been made.
Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, also maintained her vote against the tax.
On Friday, the tax package will come before the Lake County Commissioners in a special 8:30 a.m. meeting in the Syd Garner Auditorium. Commissioners are expected to veto the tax.
Five votes will be needed by the council to overrule the veto. Cid had been considered a swing vote and the possible fifth for the tax approval, though that now appears unlikely.
“I’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and I have spent many a sleepless night,” Cid said following about an hour of public comment both against and for the tax package.
She said a majority of her constituents will not see any property tax relief from the tax, and she has taken many calls from both young and old about the hardship the additional tax will cause.
In voting against the tax “I’m doing what I feel is best for my constituents,” Cid said.
Those opposed to the tax want to see continued cutting at the county level. They also called to have the measure put to a referendum. Strong said his package of cuts includes staff reduction through attrition, cross-training employees and an internal audit by an outside source to determine where more cuts could be made.
Supporters of the tax, including a large contingent of first responders in the audience, say there just is not $11 million more to cut out of the budget. County officials have cut more than 300 county jobs and reduced the budget by $32 million since 2007.
Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, the potential swing vote on that panel said while he now knows and understands the tax is a necessity he will be voting against the tax to stay true to his campaign promise.
“It’s unfortunate. … I think the reality is the council has demonstrated a need for it. Municipalities, cities and towns have demonstrated a need for it. Would I like to see it pass without any involvement from the commissioners – absolutely…If we are forced to act I have made my commitment. It would be an uncomfortable no,” Repay said.