Monroe County government may owe the state as much as $2 million dollars. Chief Deputy Auditor Steve Saulter said the state may have given the county more cash than it was owed and now state legislators want it back. Columbus Representative Milo Smith said it’s only fair.
“We have distributed about $610 million state wide that we didn’t collect,” he said. “But see we can’t figure that out until everybody files their income taxes and that April 15 of each year, and then we have to put all that information together…and so in the mean time we go ahead and release funds based on the amount we collected in previous years. So we’ve made a mistake and that has gone both ways. We have under paid counties and when we underpay a county then we have to make up the difference.”
Smith said members of the Ways and Means Committee are considering a process that would deduct a percentage of local income tax payments until communities pay the state back. Smith said the idea would be for each county to have fully repaid the state within four years.
Saulter said Monroe County was $200,000 in the black in 2009, while counties like Elkhart County had already been overpaid by as much as $16 million. Saulter said the confusion likely comes state agencies basing the county’s payments on the previous year’s payments.
“In 2010,” he said, “we received $9.8 million, so in 2011 we’ve taken a $2 million hit in the sense we’re receiving $2 million less in 2011 than we did in 2010 so if they pick the one option and pick says 4% then they would reduce the 2011 distribution which is $7.8 million by that amount.”
Smith said currently there is no way to protect against this same mistake happening again, unless distribution formulas are changed to take job loss into account.