Voters get chance to weigh in on criminal justice project

GREENFIELD — Voters will get a chance to weigh in on the proposed criminal justice complex project — or at least whether a hike in property taxes will help fund it.

County officials have collected the 525 signatures needed to put a question about the project, which includes construction of a new jail, on the ballot in May.

The deadline for collecting those signatures was noon Thursday. Just a few minutes after the deadline passed, officials confirmed a question about funding options will appear on the primary election ballot.

County officials are weighing funding options for the project, estimated to cost about $55 million, and want voters to have their say. If the project moves forward, the county plans to borrow the money and is considering increases in local income taxes or property taxes to pay back the funding.

Leaders have not decided whether the project will be fully funded by one tax or if they’ll rely on a combination of property and local income taxes.

The question on the ballot will ask voters whether they support a loan that would increase property taxes to pay for the project.

If the majority say no come May, county leaders could still move forward with other funding options or wait about a year to put the project on the ballot again.

Should a referendum pass, the tax increase to fund the project would be shared by every Hancock County property owner, even those who have reached their tax cap.

Under state law, homeowners can be taxed only up to 1 percent of their home’s assessed value, unless the increase is approved by voters. The cap for farmland and rentals is 2 percent. The cap is 3 percent for any property not classified as home, rental or farmland — such as a business.

Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore said the election board met Thursday to draft the question and will send paperwork to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for approval.

The department has until noon Feb. 23 to officially approve the public question.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or