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Indiana News

Mishawaka OKs New County 911 Center Funding Plan That Redirects Money From Libraries, Small Towns

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Jakob Lazzaro / WVPE
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Screenshot from YouTube

 

 

 

St. Joseph County is seeking to provide dedicated funding for the consolidated 911 dispatch center by redirecting existing tax revenue. Right now, the center is funded by South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County and handles emergency calls for most of the county.

The new funding plan would annually redirect $10.5 million in local income tax money to the center. It passed the Mishawaka Common Council unanimously Monday night, and Councilmember Gregg Hixenbaugh stressed that the measure is not a tax increase.

 

“This is a tax shift,” Hixenbaugh said. “It is not a tax increase for any individual taxpayer or entity that pays taxes in St. Joseph County, Indiana.” 

 

So, where is the money coming from? Existing public bodies.

 

According to an Aug. 16 South Bend Tribune article, the St. Joseph County Public Library is the biggest loser at $610,485 annually. Transpo, the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library and the South Bend International Airport would also lose out.

 

The smaller communities of New Carlisle and Walkerton — as well as Clay, Penn, Harris and Portage Townships — would have to start using some of their existing budgets to pay for the 911 center.

 

South Bend would almost break even, and Mishawaka and the county would save money. The Tribune also reported that the county has proposed using some of its savings to offset the new costs for other government entities over the next several years as a form of “transition assistance.”

 

The changes do not impact school funding, as that is separate.

 

Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood supported the resolution. He called the 911 center a “mission critical service” but said city residents are currently being double taxed to pay for it.

 

“If you live in a rural part of the county, you pay from the St. Joe County portion of your taxes,” Wood said. “If you live in Mishawaka, you pay taxes in Mishawaka and you pay taxes in St. Joe County, both of which go to support the 911 communications center.”

 

He also said the funding change is a more equitable way of doing things.

 

“That’s not happening now,” Wood said. “Every citizen has equal access, some pay substantially more for that access.”

 

This is the second time St. Joseph County has tried to use existing income tax money to create a dedicated funding stream for the 911 center. The first attempt was abandoned in 2019 after backlash from libraries and townships that would have lost money.

 

And even though the resolution passed the Mishawaka council, tax dollars aren’t being redirected yet — this is the first step in a multistage process.

 

Next, the proposed funding changes will need approval from the South Bend Common Council or the St. Joseph County Council. If it also passes there, it would take effect next fall.

 

During an Aug. 10 county council meeting, county deputy attorney Peter J. Agostino said that he “anticipates” South Bend will be comfortable with the funding changes.

 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the plan would need approval from the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners. That was incorrect. It needs approval from the St. Joseph County Council.

 

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

 

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