City of Lafayette Fire and Police Departments at risk of losing crucial funding

A portion of House Bill 1427 changes the distribution formula for the county option income taxes, or COIT. These are funds Lafayette uses to help its fire and police departments.

Posted: Apr 18, 2019 6:11 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2019 6:27 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLF) - A bill currently going through the statehouse could have a big impact on the City of Lafayette in a bad way. It would cause Lafayette Police and Fire Departments to lose thousands of dollars over the next few years.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said all the problems with House Bill 1427, a complicated tax bill, started on Monday, April 15th.

"One of our financial advisors for the city brought it to our attention," he said. "It went through the House and we didn't even know that the bill had changes in it like this that would hurt our city."

A portion of the bill changes the distribution formula for county option income taxes, also known as COIT. This is a small portion of money that comes from taxpayers in Tippecanoe County. The formula divides the money between the three jurisdictions within the county.

"This new formula calculation could actually cost the City of Lafayette hundreds of thousands of dollars in COIT funds," he said. "Those COIT funds go right into our city's general funds to help fund police and fire."

He added later that the amount Lafayette first responders could actually end up losing might be in the million-dollar range. He said he is upset that there was no chance for the communities impacted negatively to have a say. He believes the change to the bill initially started with Carmel and Fishers.

"Originally I was told this legislation was only going to change the formula specific to those two communities because of some things going on there," he said.

And when he found out that it was actually written to impact the entire state, he said he reached out to State Representative Sheila Klinker and State Senator Ron Alting. Senator Alting said there are winners and losers.

"Tippecanoe County, the City of West Lafayette and the City of Lafayette can participate in it (COIT), but the loser of the three (as a result of the bill) will be the City of Lafayette," he said.

Mayor Roswarski said there would have to be some tough decisions made if the city lost a million dollars in funding for its first responders.

"We would do everything we could not to lay people off," he said. "We would have to look at how we purchase equipment, we'd look at raises, our insurance coverage. A million dollars is a significant amount of money."

And with Lafayette being the hub of healthcare, jobs, entertainment, food, and arts in this region, which brings in visitors from all over, he said the city needs its first responders at full capacity.

"We are the largest city in this region by far and so we have the largest police and fire departments," he said.

Senator Alting said if this language gets passed, it could set a dangerous precedent, but he's ready to fight it.

"Even though I had nothing to do with the amendment that was put in to hurt my city in Lafayette, you can rest assured that I'm going to fight like heck to get that language taken out," he said.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives rejected the changes the Senate proposed earlier this week. This means the bill will now go to conference committee, where hopefully, there will be more opportunity to try and change this language before the end of the legislative session.

Mayor Roswarski said he wants to see the bill tabled for this year, so that it can go to summer study committee, where the impacts can be looked at over a period of months.

The legislative session ends at midnight on April 29th.

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