Where They Stand: Chris Mull, County council at-large

What experience do you have that makes you most qualified to be a county council member?

Manages and oversees a staff of 14 employees and puts together a budget and figures out what equipment needs to be replaced. His company handles a few million dollars in his department alone.

What are the top three issues facing the county, and how would you address them?

Maintaining roads has always been a big issue, and it’s not cheap. Finding money for amenities we’d like to add to the county, and getting people out to exercise their right to vote round out my top three. We need to get more people involved in our community.

What is the role of a county council member? What will be your goals if elected?

They set the county’s budget, including volunteer fire departments, the sheriff’s office, approving county salaries and issuing the wheel tax. Everyone on county council has been doing a good job, but it’s a good idea to get fresh blood in there. It would be the duty of everyone to take turns in that. Would like to find better ways to pay for stuff. The wheel tax has not always been popular, and he would be unopposed to starting a gas tax.

Growth continues in the unincorporated White River Township area of the county, and residents have long been asking for more amenities, such as parks and trails. What should the county do to address these needs? How would they be paid for?

Money has to come from somewhere, so either they have to do a gas tax over in that area, where a few cents per gallon could cover that or save up some money, then spend on more amenities. We need to start putting money aside and starting a fund to let that grow.

Road funding continues to be an issue for local governments, including the county. Years ago, the county added a wheel tax to help bring in more money for road work, but local officials have continued to say there is a need for more funding. What should the county do to make sure there is enough money to fix, repave and build new roads?

Would definitely say the gas tax would be a big thing. People who are traveling on I-65 would be getting gas locally, so that could help bring in more money.

This year, the county began charging an innkeeper’s tax to bring in money so a local convention, visitor and tourism board can promote local attractions and events. How do you believe that money should be spent? How much involvement do you believe county government should have in overseeing that new entity and how those dollars are spent?

We probably need to invest it so we can use that money to help fund marketing in our county and create other incentives for conventions to come here. Works closely with the Indiana Convention Center, so we should be looking at what they do and see if there’s a way to bring that business down here or bring new business or conventions to the area. Takes money to build a convention center, but maybe can do sponsorships. The government should at least have a presence with the convention, visitor and tourism board to at least see what kind of ideas they come up with and keep the ideas realistic. But people who have a background in lodging and tourism should be the ones who dictate that.

Do you believe the county needs any new taxes? If so, what and what would it pay for?

Cut back on the wheel tax and look at taxing fuel in general and maybe another cigarette tax. If we can make our community a smoke-free community, is all for that. The wheel tax is not as effective because there’s only so many cars in Johnson County. We’d make more money creating a gas tax due to traffic from U.S. 31, Interstate 65, State Road 37 and others. The gas tax would help with road maintenance costs.

Do any changes need to be made to the county’s staffing levels? If so, what should be changed? And why?

Doesn’t know yet without looking at the whole staff to see. Would like to be able to talk to everyone, to get a better understanding if there’s a need for the open positions. In his company, every employee wears multiple hats.

In past years, the county has faced a shortfall between what is planned to be spent on services and what is collected in taxes. What, if anything, can be cut? And why?

There’s not a whole lot we can cut. It’s pretty tight. Would have to go in and look to see if there’s anything we can shift, to see if funds can move into different departments. Can also look into possible grants to bring in additional money.

Jail overcrowding continues to be a concern, especially in light of recent changes in state law on who can be sent to state prisons. What should be done to address overcrowding at the jail? How should it be paid for?

The people who don’t have the higher offenses could get more house arrest. Is hard to combat that when, unfortunately, we have people who make mistakes. Would be in favor of building another jail if we could save up to build it or would be in favor of saving enough to add on to the existing jail, without raising taxes. Could also look into converting vacant buildings.

The county is planning a new community corrections facility. How will additional expenses, such as staffing and operating costs, be paid for?

The money has to come from somewhere. Could look at how fees from tickets or sales of seized property from crime scenes is spent in the sheriff’s office and see if we can allocate some to the community corrections facility. There’s got to be a way. Could also look at the rainy day fund and see if there’s a possibility of investing that money to grow our account.

Counties are set to get millions when the state releases some of the money set aside from the income tax. How should Johnson County spend that money?

First, we should invest it, especially if we’re getting a big chunk. We should be investing it in either CDs, bonds, etc. — to put that money into a growing account and take money out of it when they need to. That could pay for marketing for our convention services, cover correctional facilities or improve roads. If they don’t spend it right away, we could wait a year or two to grow it then find the best way to spend the money.

State law allows counties to enact local option income taxes specifically for public safety. That tax would apply to all of Johnson County and would need to be approved by the county council. Would you be in favor of enacting that tax to aid public safety? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Doesn’t necessarily want to add a tax for public safety. Knows most cities will fund their own public safety. If there’s more crime in that area, we should be addressing the problem and see what we can do to make that particular area safer.