As the city of Kokomo begins its yearly budget hearings Tuesday evening, a dispute is brewing between Mayor Greg Goodnight’s government and county officials. Goodnight says the county should downsize, while the county council president insists the city is not following its own financial advice.
Last month, Kokomo city officials voted to end a longstanding agreement which specified the city would help pay for the county’s emergency management operation and its weights and measures division. That puts as much as $500,000 back in city coffers for the coming year, meaning the city likely will not have to raise taxes, says Mayor Greg Goodnight.
“The concern is that more units of government will hit property tax caps,” he says. “Well if they right-size county government, a big portion of that problem will go away.”
What Goodnight wants county leaders to do, now that the city is set to complete a second round of annexations, is compensate for the smaller number of people and smaller portion of Howard County not encompassed by the city.
But County Council President Richard Miller says it is unfair for the city to keep the additional cash it is about to have and at the same time ask the county to be wary of increasing taxes.
“If the city does not reduce their levy, then they are keeping the money – let’s just say it’s $400,000 for discussion here – they are keeping that money and are going to spend it somewhere else.”
Goodnight says he is not going to issue any recommendations to the county other than to decrease its workforce. Miller cautions the situation is not a simple case of measuring demand for services.