“The biggest problem faced by the county, as well as all other taxing units, will be insufficient revenue,” Foutz said. “Governor Pence’s call for the elimination of the personal property tax paid by businesses will very likely be at the expense of local taxing units.”
Yohn was quick to agree.
“The council and commissioners will need to work together to find new revenue sources to replace property tax losses caused by Property Tax Caps,” Yohn said. “New proposals coming out of Indianapolis to reduce or eliminate property taxes on manufacturing equipment will create even more losses. Funding for road maintenance will also continue to challenge the Highway Department and council.”
Other possible concerns pointed to by both Foutz and Yohn include ongoing issues with the county’s criminal justice infrastructure.
“Following signals from the state, whose previous agenda was to house most felons in security residential facilities, Elkhart County built a large new facility to house local inmates as well as inmate overflow from the state,” Foutz said. “This creates two problems. No one has come up with a constructive use for the building, and as a result, we have the old jail sitting empty except for minimal use as a juvenile detention facility.”
Secondly, Foutz noted that while he feels Elkhart Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker and the Circuit Court staff have done a commendable job of insuring that the Juvenile Detention Facility meets or exceeds state standards, he also believes the old jail needs to go and a new, modern Juvenile Detention Facility needs to be built.
“Additionally, a parallel criminal rehabilitation apparatus exists in the form of Community Corrections centered in the city of Goshen,” Foutz said. “Instead of sentencing lower level felons to jail, the state is encouraging them to be sent to Community Corrections where they may be housed and assigned to work release or placed on electric monitoring.”
While philosophically this appears to be the direction the criminal justice system is moving in the state of Indiana, Foutz noted that such change has resulted in an unexpected overcrowding in the work release facility and an underutilization of the county jail.
“Of course, because of differing state standards, these three facilities cannot be used interchangeably,” Foutz said. “This is a problem the county will be dealing with for some time to come.”