Indiana has been holding on to $205 million of your tax money over the past year. State officials blame a programming error for the mistake.
Nine counties in our immediate area will see some of the money from this mistake, with St. Joseph County getting back $12.5 million, a combined amount of county option income tax and county economic development income tax. Other adjacent counties' pay-outs: Elkhart getting more than $5 million; LaPorte getting more than $1.5 million.
Even though counties are getting money back ... some have taken drastic measures to balance their budget and this money could have eased some of the stress.
“How can I trust any more figures that I get from the state?" said Pete Mullen, St. Joseph County auditor.
It’s simple frustration from an auditor.
"There are a lot of people furious as to why this happened,” Mullen said. “How could this happen?"
Officials from 91 counties across Indiana are wondering the same thing. But the state is accepting responsibility for the mistake.
"We certainly appreciate getting it back,” Mullen said, “but there are an awful a lot of people who have worked hard to balance the budget in this county. Our commissioners, staff have sacrificed to make it work."
One of those people is Don Napoli, St. Joseph County Public Library director.
"You spend a lot of time cutting and sometimes the cuts are hard," Napoli said.
Napoli has cut staff and hours at the library and hasn't filled positions because of a tight budget. He said the library will see more than $100,000 from this mistake. Money library officials can put to use right away.
“A new roof, right now the center needs a new roof," Napoli said.
Others getting a check said this money will help their operation recoup from recent revenue loss.
"To realize we have some money coming back in and it would benefit TRANSPO and our passengers," said Maurice Pearl from TRANSPO.
TRANSPO just suffered a round of route cuts because it's been struggling to bring in revenue. So could this new money reverse that decision?
"It would have to be a significant amount of money for us to put service back in," Pearl said.
Each entity doesn't have an exact sum of what they'll see just yet. Mullen said with or without the money they'll make do.
"We run a frugal county, we don't spend a lot of money foolishly," Mullen said.
This $205 million error is the third time in the past year and a half that counties have been short changed of money from the state.
In December, the state made a $320 million dollar mistake and early last year the state over-distributed to counties and made them return millions in local option income.
The state is hiring an outside audit firm to conduct an investigation into how the state landed here.
Counties could see the money as early as next week ...then, of course, each county will allocate the money to agencies.