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Income tax to go back up

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GREENFIELD — Income taxes will rise slightly in 2015 in Hancock County, generating a pool of money for the county’s library and additional roadwork.

The Hancock County Council has decided to approve a .05 percent increase to the county economic development income tax, bringing the tax rate back to what it was in 2013.

The tax fluctuates every few years, and Tuesday, the Hancock County Public Library Board discussed how to use the money for staffing, materials and building improvements. Patrons likely will see even more e-books and other electronic media at the library in 2015 as it shifts more resources to digital materials.

Dave Gray, director of the library, stressed that it’s a common misconception that the library will receive significantly more money because the income tax is increasing.  The library is the only one in the state to be funded through income taxes, but Gray said the library gets the same funding it would have received through property taxes.

The CEDIT is a pool of money into which county officials dip to pay for the library. Last year, that pool of money became large enough that the county council lowered the tax by .05 percent; for 2015, the council decided last week to raise it back to its original level.

The library board is eyeing a $4.1 million budget for 2015, up slightly from 2014’s $4 million budget. Gray said that is under the growth quotient allowed by the state.

Among items included in the budget is a boost in funding for capital projects; the parking lot of the library will likely be repaved next year at a cost of up to $80,000.

Library employees will get a 2 percent raise under the proposal; that’s the same raise they’ve seen the past two years. Personnel is the biggest section of the library’s budget, at nearly $2.4 million.

The library is also set to spend $833,000 in materials next year, up from this year’s $812,000.

The biggest increase in materials is for books and electronic media. A total of $338,500 is slated to be spent on electronic media, from e-books to services that stream music and movies. That’s meeting the library’s trend of increasing services to meet demand of more people using e-readers, computers and smartphones to enjoy media, Gray said.

“It could be additional titles; it could be that we buy three of a bestseller instead of just two because of demand,” Gray said.

The library could also spend $11,000 more in traditional books, for a total of $286,000.

“It would be nice to say that we’ll buy more in books, but it depends,” Gray said. “It depends on the cost of the book, the type of book and what comes out.”

While the library is funded through income taxes, Gray said overall, there are few changes in the 2015 budget compared with 2014.

Hancock County Councilman Jim Shelby said the council could have lowered another income tax when it decided to raise the CEDIT for the library. Instead, Shelby said, the council agreed to a net increase in income taxes for 2015 to allow for funds to be built up for other projects, such as road maintenance.

The net increase in taxes of .05 percent means more money will be drawn out of paychecks next year. A person with a $30,000 salary, for example, will be paying $15 more next year in taxes.

The library’s proposed budget will be advertised next month, with final adoption slated for Oct. 14.

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