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Candidates offer guarded support for innkeeper’s tax

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Two candidates for county council currently are not in favor of a local innkeeper’s tax but could be swayed to a yes vote with a more detailed plan and support from residents.

County council member Beth Boyce is running for re-election to the board’s District 3 seat and is being challenged in the Republican primary by Brian Moore. No Democrat has signed up to run for the seat, but a candidate could be slated after the primary. The district represents a large section of Pleasant Township, including part of the city of Greenwood.

Boyce joined the council in 2008 and was elected to a full term in 2010. She previously worked for U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer and currently is a stay-at-home mother. Moore ran unsuccessfully for the Greenwood City Council and an at-large seat on the county council. He works for Luca Pizza in Greenwood Park Mall.

Neither candidate supports raising taxes to make up for any budget shortfalls.

The county council has explored the idea of increasing the local income tax and voted against creating an innkeeper’s tax. Moore said taxpayers already pay their fair share, and he is not in favor of either idea.

Boyce was one of four county council members who voted against creating an innkeeper’s tax in February. She is now leading a study committee on the idea, with council members who also voted against the idea and various community and economic leaders.

Boyce would not rule out voting for an innkeeper’s tax in the future but wants to first know how the money from the tax will be spent. An innkeeper’s tax would add a tax on hotel and motel bills that would be used to start a visitor and tourism bureau.

During initial discussions this year details weren’t available on how the money would be spent, and proponents said those decisions would be made once the tax was created. The tax would have had a better chance of passing if more planning went into the discussions, Boyce said.

Moore said he would not vote for an innkeeper’s tax unless a majority of residents wanted one. And he added every city and town in the county would have to receive a fair share of the revenue before he would vote yes for the tax.

Boyce and Moore both said they would not vote for increasing the local income tax in order to bring in more money for public safety expenses.

Moore said he would like any potential future expansion of the jail to be 80 percent federally funded, with the other 20 percent coming from county funds. Before then, overcrowding can be eased by having people convicted of nonviolent crimes pay a fine and be put on home detention, he said.

Boyce supported the jail expansion that voters turned down but said she would not support the idea again without a specific plan that detailed the costs. Overcrowding is not an immediate concern but will need to be addressed in the next few years, she said.

Funding the new Superior Court 4 will be an immediate concern of the county council, both candidates said.

Two possibilities for funding the court include increased fines and borrowing from other courts, Moore said.

Boyce said the funding for the new court will have to be figured out during the budget process later this summer. The council will need to sit down with judges to discuss how many employees and how much money will be needed for the new court, she said.

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