CROWN POINT ó Lake County officials are debating whether they have accidentally double taxed Cedar Lake and Schererville residents.
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, argues this week a mistake by the County Council in funding the county's E-911 public safety dispatching service has resulted in Cedar Lake residents overpaying $25,000 in property taxes and Schererville's overpaying $100,000.
Scheub said the same thing will happen this year, too, and he wants the county to refund this money through tax credits.
County Council members say Scheub is wrong.
"There is no double taxation," Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, said Wednesday. He and other council members said they and the state reviewed the 2015 and 2016 budgets to ensure Cedar Lake and Schererville residents don't pay for the county E-911.
Hamm said he suspects Scheub is creating an issue on which to run for re-election this year. Scheub is seeking a fifth term as county commissioner of the 2nd District, which includes Cedar Lake, Schererville and much of south county.
Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, and Schererville Town Councilman Jerry Tippy are running in the Republican primary for a chance to unseat Scheub as commissioner.
Scheub said this isn't politics.
"It's not a lot of money, but we want to be straight up and fair across the board. This just clears the air and makes everybody understand we have caught this and want to rectify it. We are giving it back to the taxpayers."
Michael E. Duffy, a lawyer for the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance which oversees Lake spending, stated in a Wednesday email, "At this time, the Department has not looked into these allegations to determine the accuracy of such statements and whether or not double taxation has occurred."
The Indiana General Assembly mandated all 92 Hoosier counties to merge their county, city and town E-911 police, fire and emergency medical service telephone and radio communications.
Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Griffith, Hammond, Highland, Hobart, Lake Station, Lowell, Munster, Merrillville, New Chicago, St. John, and Whiting joined the county's†PSAP or public safety answering point center last year. Cedar Lake and Schererville town officials formed an independent Southcom PSAP.
Duffy said each of Lake's PSAPs must fund its own operation exclusively out of its own property taxes.
Scheub said he believes Cedar Lake and Schererville residents are being taxed for both their own PSAP and the county's PSAP.
He said the County Council breached the financial wall last year when the county's E-911 budget was more than $1 million in the red and the council filled the shortfall with property taxes paid by everyone, including the two towns.
Strong said the council separated the county's E-911 spending into a stand-alone fund that doesn't draw taxes from Cedar Lake and Schererville.
"Property taxes for E-911 are out of the equation countywide. DLGF would not allow double taxation," Strong said.
Tippy stated in a Wednesday email, "Returning dollars to residents who were double taxed should be the normal course of business. Itís not a political favor, itís the right thing to do. The money should be returned immediately, included as a credit on the 2016 tax bills."