ANDERSON – The Anderson City Council debated the proposed public safety income tax increase for several hours before voting for adoption The council voted 6-3 for passage of the 0.3% public safety income tax that will start being collected in January.

Without the city council’s affirmative vote the tax increase to help fund the construction of a new Madison County jail and funding for the criminal justice system would have been defeated for a year.

Every city and town will receive a share of the tax revenues with Anderson expected to received $3 million.

Voting for the proposed tax increase were council members Jon Bell, Jennifer Culp, Ollie H. Dixon, Lance Stephenson and Rick Muir Voting against adoption were council members Don Lynch, Joe Neman, Rebecca Crumes and Ty Bibbs.

The tax is expected to generate $8 million for local government entities that would provide $3 million each to Anderson and Madison County with the remaining funding divided based on population to the other cities and towns. Bell said the city council has an opportunity to do something positive for the county.

“It’s not a county problem or a city problem,” he said. “It’s a community problem and we have an underfunded criminal justice system.”

Councilwoman Jennifer Culp voted yes and said it was up to the council to make sure the money is spent wisely if the tax is approved.

“We need to band together to tackle our problems,” she said. “We’re part of our community.”

Aside from elected officials there were only three city residents that commented on the proposed tax increase.

County Council members Fred Reese, Mikeal Vaughn and Jerry Alexander all spoke in opposition to the tax increase and asked city council members to vote against it until a detailed plan is developed on the use of the funds.

Resident Angie Strickler said the council was making a decision without a plan in place.

“There are ideas I could get behind,” she said. “But there is no plan on how the money will be spent.”

Lindsay Brown said no program has been spelled out on how the funds will be spent.

Fay Dansby said people might have supported the 0.15% for the construction of a new jail.

“The process was done wrong,” she said.

Early in the meeting Newman asked to table the discussion until the city council would return to in-person meetings to conduct a public hearing.

Bell said by tabling the proposed resolution on the 0.3% increase it would defeat the adoption of the tax.

The council voted 6-3 not to table the resolution.

During the discussion, Crumes several times commented that the council was being asked to raise taxes during a crisis, there is a projected utility rate increase in Anderson and the cost of living is on the rise.

The Anderson City Council’s vote came crucial to the effort to raise the public safety income tax to fund a portion of the cost for a new county jail and to provide additional funding for the criminal justice system.

Earlier this month the Madison County Council voted to defeat the increase.

Since then, Elwood, Alexandria, Pendleton, Lapel and Markleville have voted to in favor of the tax increase.

Sheriff Scott Mellinger said the county council made one of their biggest mistakes ever made in defeating the tax increase.

“I hope Anderson will correct it,” he said. Council President Bibbs noted several times during the meeting that the city has a $16 million to $18 million operating balance and the additional $3 million from the tax increase is not needed.

Bibbs said the proposed increase in the public safety income tax should have been divided into two separate resolutions of 0.15% for the funding of a jail and 0.15% to fund the criminal justice system.
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