By Aleasha Sandley, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

ANDERSON - The city laid off four employees this week, and more layoffs could be coming, depending on a county decision over whether to increase the county option income tax.

Two employees in the Anderson Police Department - a parking attendant and chemist - and two employees from the Municipal Development Department were laid off Monday, Board of Public Works Chairman Greg Graham said. The newest cuts total five layoffs within the Municipal Development Department this year.

The layoffs come in the wake of a report by Indianapolis-based financial consulting firm H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, which suggested the city would lose millions more than originally estimated from its general fund due to statewide property tax caps, also known as "circuit breakers."

To bring in more revenue, the city voted to increase the county option income tax by 0.5 percent, which would add more than $4 million to city coffers, but the COIT increase can't take effect unless it receives at least 51 votes in the County Income Tax Council. Either the County Council or the Elwood City Council would have to approve the increase for it to take effect.

Graham said in the meantime, city officials are expecting more layoffs.

"We do anticipate more as the budget cuts that we're enacting begin to take place," he said. "We're watching the development of the (COIT) vote.

"There will be dramatically more layoffs if (COIT) does not pass."

Graham did not know how much money the four layoffs this week would save the city, but said 25 employees cost roughly $1 million for wages and benefits.

The city's basic plan is to cut $1 million out of the police budget, $1 million from the fire budget, $1.3 million from the parks department and to make other cuts in other departments, Graham said.

While the city will continue to provide services, some could be affected with the new layoffs, such as the police department's crime lab. With the loss of a chemist, it might have to rely more heavily on the Indiana State Police crime lab, Graham said.

"With the substantial cuts we've already made, all the low-hanging fruit's already been picked," he said. "This is painful stuff and it's difficult stuff."

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