ANDERSON — During a lengthy discussion by the Anderson City Council on increasing the public safety income tax, concerns were voiced how those funds will be spent.

The city council voted 5-4 Thursday to approve the 0.3% increase which provided the necessary votes on the Madison County Tax Council to adopt the increase.

The increased income tax is expected to generate $8 million to be shared by Madison County and all the cities and towns.

The county will use half of the additional $3 million toward the construction and operation of a new jail and the remaining $1.5 million for criminal justice system expenses.

The city of Anderson will receive an estimated $3 million.

In discussion with the city council prior to the vote, Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said the additional funding would be used to hire two additional deputy prosecutors and two investigators.

Madison Circuit Court 4 Judge David Happe, the chief judge, said the additional funding would expand access to the expungement of criminal history, avoid unnecessary incarceration and establish standards for appointed public defenders to have contact with their clients housed at the Madison County jail.

Councilman Ollie H. Dixon, who voted to increase the tax, said the county’s criminal justice system indicated how they wanted the funds spent starting in 2022.

“There are a lot of people in jail waiting for trial,” Dixon said. “Some are guilty of being poor and can’t post bond. Judge Happe has promised to look into and take care of the problem.”

Sheriff Scott Mellinger said the county implemented a pre-trial release program two years ago.

He said that has reduced the average daily population in the jail from 280 inmates in 2019 to 240 currently.

Mellinger said with the additional funding he wants to add educational and rehabilitation programs at the proposed new county jail.

When asked by Councilman Don Lynch if the county council would determine how the funds are spent, Happe said the council would make the determination.

Lynch voted no on the tax increase because there was no guarantee the council would spend the funds as intended by officials with the county’s criminal justice system.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Hanna said the increased funding would raise Madison County to the level of spending with other comparable counties.

Hanna said there is a commitment from at least four members of the county council to use the additional funding as proposed.

Ben Gale, president of the Madison County Council, said the additional public safety dollars are needed to support other county departments and to operate the new jail in the future.

“We need a safe county, a safe community,” Gale said.
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