GREENFIELD — Utility lines for the proposed new fairgrounds project. Road repairs. A hefty deposit into the county’s savings account.
Those are some of the items on the wish list for local officials as they watch the progress of bills that would give millions of dollars back to local governments move through the General Assembly.
Two bills making their way through the Legislature would give Indiana communities $430 million to $444 million in 2016 to be spent on public safety, road repairs or infrastructure improvements.
In Hancock County, between $7.1 million and $9.1 million would be distributed among the county’s government bodies.
Senate Bill 67 and House Bill 1110 would distribute a portion of counties’ excess income tax revenues, currently being set aside in a trust account for emergencies.
Under the House bill, this spring the state would pay out 88 percent of the money in the account as of Dec. 31, 2014. The Senate bill would distribute the balance of the account as of Dec. 31, 2014 — it requires at least 75 percent of the distribution be used for transportation-related projects or deposited into a rainy day fund.
The bills also lower the amount of local income tax set aside every year.
Both bills have passed their respective chambers and have moved to the other for consideration. Before they can become law, they must be passed by both chambers and signed by the governor.
Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, said because the money is collected by local governments through taxes residents pay, it should be given back to the communities, especially for projects that improve roads, as the Senate bill requires.
“I’m hopeful we can do something to help with local road funding,” Crider said. “Any time we can give more money to the local governments, I’m happy to support that.”
Local officials say they’re still researching the bills to understand how much money each unit of government will receive and what that money can be spent on.
Hancock County Council President Bill Bolander said he just learned of the bills recently and expects the county would receive about $3 million under the House bill.
The council has yet to discuss what the extra revenue would be spent on, but members could decide to fund expenses associated with setting up utility lines at the site of the proposed new fairgrounds, Bolander said. They also could decide they’d rather save that money or invest it in more road projects, he added.
Bolander is happy lawmakers are considering giving the money back to local communities, but he wants to be sure the county is responsible in how it chooses to spend the cash.
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell said he planned to meet with local lawmakers this week to discuss the bills and how much money the city would receive. Like the county council, the city council hasn’t had an opportunity to discuss how the money would be spent because members don’t yet know all the details.
Using the money for city roads might be the best investment, but the city won’t be making any immediate decisions, Fewell said.
“Until I see a number that gives me something I can work with, I can fantasize all I want,” he said. “We’re going to sit down and see where it will have the largest impact.”
To watch House Bill 1110 and Senate Bill 67 advance through the General Assembly, visit in.gov/legislative. Committee meetings and House and Senate sessions can be watched live.