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Commissioners OK $2 million for tax relief

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon approved $2 million of riverboat gaming funds for property tax relief to be split among the three school corporations in the county.
The board previously considered other methods for property tax relief, but concluded an ordinance had to be approved in 2008 to change the method. No such ordinance was created.
The motion, made by Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes, included the stipulation that the money had to be used in the year it was intended and for the purpose intended, which is to apply it directly to school bonds. It cannot be used, Commissioner Chairman James Goldman said, to lower debt against a new loan. Commissioner Terry Miller said if the stipulations are not followed, the money must be paid back to the county. The funds will be split according to assessed valuation of the schools.
Last year, the county council also approved $2 million, which amounted to about $1.2 million for South Harrison, $539,000 for North Harrison and $215,000 for Lanesville. The money was appropriated out of the riverboat contingency fund last year, but Mathes Monday afternoon asked for this year’s money to come out of the riverboat education fund. Miller, however, did not want the education allotment to be used for this issue, because it helps taxpayers, not students. He said the fund was created to help Harrison County students compete with others around the state.
‘To use it for tax relief and not education is sending the wrong message,’ he said. ‘I don’t like that.’
Mathes said he understood Miller’s argument, but he knows of many projects yet to come this year that need to be funded out of the contingency fund. Goldman suggested meeting in the middle and taking $1 million out of each fund.
‘I’m going to be friends with both of you,’ he said.
The council will vote to approve the appropriation at its Feb. 23, meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. at the Harrison County Court House in Corydon. The commissioners will next meet on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the courthouse.
In other business Monday, the board approved a bid of $637,730 from Streicher Construction in Evansville for the Blue River Services vehicle maintenance facility in Corydon and sent additional appropriations of $108,321 out of the riverboat contingency fund for ambulance service shortfall from 2008 and $50,000 out of the county general fund for utility maintenance at the old hospital campus.
The board reappointed Lowell Smith to the hospital board and appointed J.R. Eckart, Gerald Saulman and Harold Scott to the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.