County Finances and Taxes – A Primer

Our county government (commissioners and council) have identified their intent to borrow an estimated $10 -12 million to build a new Justice Center ($10 million)and to renovate/re-purpose the historic courthouse ( $1-2 million?). The second floor of the courthouse will be used to create offices for our “part-time” commissioners.

Citizens should expect commissioners and councilman to address some basic questions:

  • What documentation is available that identifies the compelling need for this project?
  • Was a workload analysis completed to support the size and scope of the facility?
  • Where is the documentation that identifies the alternatives and their respective pros and cons?
  • Where is the documentation that identifies the counties projected revenues and expenses over the life of the loan for these combined projects (justice center and historic courthouse) that supports that this project represents the best option for the county and is financially responsible?

  For the background on this project, see  Proposed Justice Center and Historic Courthouse – For the Record

FINANCIAL PLAN 2016-2021. The presentation of the “first-ever” Five Year Financial Plan (2016-2021) on April 4, 2019, identified significant financial challenges. The suggestion is to increase taxes, max out the income tax rate which will the lead to the need to increase the property tax rate and/or cut the size and scope of government.


Last year, Umbaugh and Associates (Now Baker Tilly) provided a presentation at the library that illustrated the complexity of our tax system – The Basics of Local Government Budgeting.   The information included  “scenarios” (pages 22-24) regarding transitioning from the high-income tax rate/low property tax rate option.


2018. In partnership with IU/SPEA, graduate students have prepared two reports for us. The report last year (2018 Brown County Financial Decision Support Model, covered tax policy, trends, and projections.  Note page 19: ” “The average increase in levy and budget indicate increasing tax burden on a diminishing tax base. Based on these calculations, Brown County’s needs are out-pacing its ability to levy property taxes.”

  • July 4, 2018. Brown County Democrat.  IU students discuss how data can guide county’s financial decisions by Sara Clifford. A group of Indiana University graduate students spent last semester studying Brown County’s tax structure and other variables. Their goal was to help county leaders develop tools to forecast how changes in taxes, spending, and the county’s economy will affect taxpayers and local government — a “county financial and decision support model.”

 2017. The 2017 IU/SPEA Report: Economic Analysis provided an excellent overview of county economics.


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