In recent years, it has been recognized that Madison County will eventually need to replace its current prison facility.
The prison, which sits on prime land along the White River, should never have been built on the site in the 1980s.
It is landlocked with no possibility of expansion, and while it was designed for the eventual two-story addition, it would still be woefully inadequate for the county’s ever-growing prison population.
The prison was built with 207 beds, but almost from the start it was not large enough to house all of the inmates in the county.
The community corrections complex, which includes work release, eased overcrowding in the prison for some time.
This is no longer the case.
Sheriff Scott Mellinger has been pushing for the construction of a 500-bed prison for several years at a cost of $ 50 million.
Last month, financial consultants estimated the cost of building a new 400-bed prison at nearly $ 80 million, including interest.
Mellinger told county council members that a minimum of 450 beds is required.
Elected Republicans who control County Council, County Commissioners Council and most city councils have tough decisions to make before Halloween.
The hardest decision is how to pay for a new prison. No elected official likes to raise taxes, especially as an election year approaches.
On their own, Madison County Council members can pass a local 0.2% income tax that should be used for a new prison. This tax is expected to bring Madison County more than $ 5 million per year.
If implemented before November 1, tax revenue will start pouring into county coffers next year and start to cover some of the jail costs.
The second phase will be more difficult.
The financial adviser recommended an increase in the local public security income tax of 0.15% to cover the cost of the bond if the county’s income were to drop.
The $ 4 million in expected tax revenue would be shared with the other towns in the county.
But it takes a majority vote from the Madison County Tax Board to pass the increase.
Madison County does not have enough votes on its own, and Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. has not taken a position on the increase.
If Anderson votes not to increase the tax, Madison County and a combination of Elwood, Alexandria, Pendleton or other cities will have to adopt the increase.
Last week, criminal justice officials called for an additional 0.15% to be added to public safety income tax to cover future expenses.
Raising money for the prison through an income tax is better than increasing property taxes. Each working county resident would pay a share of the cost.
An argument can be made to increase the public security tax by 0.15% to help offset the costs of running prisons.
The extra 0.15% for the criminal justice system will be harder to sell.