Council cuts riverboat revenue funds to local entities by 10-percent for 2007

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In a special meeting of the Switzerland County Council held last Thursday, the council voted by a 4-3 margin to reduce the amount of money going to local entities that is provided by riverboat revenue sharing.

Since Belterra Casino Resort and Spa opened in 2000, Switzerland County has been sharing the wagering tax and admission tax money that it receives with various groups both in and out of the county on a percentage basis.

“When we first set these percentages, we said that they would be for five years,” County Council president Mike Jones said. “We are now going into our seventh year with these percentages, and the council has voted to adjust them.”

The percentages themselves will remain the same, but the pool of money that will be divided with shrink. Mike Jones said that the new plan will be in place for 2007, but is a one year plan and will be looked at again before 2008.

In 2002, the state of Indiana set a cap on casino communities as to the maximum amount of money that can come into the community. The state then gets the rest.

For Switzerland County, that cap stands at $9,915,977.13 – with $5,111,269.13 coming from wagering taxes and $4,804,708 coming from admission taxes.

Until now, the entire amount has been placed under the revenue sharing formula, with the county council itself being the biggest beneficiary of the formula, receiving 23.75 percent of the money.

At Thursday’s meeting, however, the council moved to reduce the amount of the tax money that is divided into the revenue sharing plan.

Under the new guidelines, the county council will take 10-percent of the funds – $991,597.72 – off of the top before revenue sharing kicks in. This will leave $8,924,379.41 to be shared.

With the percentages staying the same, a smaller pool of funds will mean less money for all of the organizations who have been receiving funds for the past six years.

“There are no new categories,” Mike Jones said. “The extra money is going to go to the county council to give us more money to do grants and other special, one time projects for groups that aren’t in the formula. In the past we’ve helped the East Enterprise Sewer District, Swiss Friends of Animals, and the United Fund. We want to do more of those projects.”

Mike Jones said that organizations that aren’t in the revenue sharing plan can submit a proposal for a project to the council for its consideration, and that can be done through the auditor’s office.

“We try and help as many people as we can, but we didn’t want the cuts to put the entities that we already help at risk,” Mike Jones said.

As groups receiving revenue sharing funds begin to rethink their budgets for next year because of the 10-percent cut – they do so with the knowledge that it could have been worse.

As the meeting began, councilman Terry Hall made a motion to pull 40-percent of the riverboat funds out of the formula; and that motion was seconded by councilman Kenny Griffin.

After some discussion, councilman John Keeton moved to amend the motion to take the percentage down to 20-percent, but his motion failed to receive a second.

Councilman Donnie Covington then moved to cut the funds by 10-percent, and that amendment passed by a 4-3 vote, with council members Mike Jones, Darrell Hansel, Steve Crabtree, and Donnie Covington voting in favor; while Terry Hall, Kenny Griffin, and John Keeton opposed the motion.

One of the biggest losers in the formula reduction will be the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation, which has been receiving 14-percent of the riverboat revenue sharing funds and has used that money to fund various school capital projects. The endowment corporation has also used parts of those funds in the past to reduce the debt service on property taxes, and has also paid for textbook rental fees for parents.

“I know there’s a lot of people out there who think we give the school too much money,” Mike Jones said. “But look at the school’s debt service. They don’t have to advertise a debt service in their tax levy, and they pay for the school books. Those things help taxpayers. We didn’t want to cut to where those things would be jeopardized.”

Another group that Mike Jones acknowledges will have to have its percentage looked at is Switzerland County EMS, which provides emergency medical services to the county.

“We have a emergency personnel 24/7, and I don’t think anybody wants to see those services cut,” he said.

What the effect of the cuts will have on groups that have planned their 2007 budgets including those funds, but now have them reduced less than three weeks from a new year, is yet to be determined.

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Here’s a look at how the cuts will affect groups in the plan. All figures are based on the county meeting its cap amount of $9,915,977.13. Should Belterra taxes not meet the cap, amounts would fall even more:

– The County Council receives 23.75-percent of the funds, so this year it received $2,355,044.51. Under the new plan, the expected amount for 2007 is $2,119,540.03; which is a loss of $235,504 for the year. But, remember that the county council will also now control an additional 10-percent off of the top, which is $991,597.72 – meaning the council will ultimately see an increase in its funds of $756,093.22.

– The Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation receives 14-percent of the funds; so this year it received $1,388,236.80. In 2007, it will receive $1,249,413.12; a loss of $138,823.

– The County Building Fund receives 10-percent of the funds; so this year it received $991,597.72. In 2007, it will receive $892,437.95; a loss of $99,159.

– The County 911/Law Enforcement Fund receives 4.75-percent of the funds; so this year it received $471,008.92. In 2007, it will receive $423,908.03; a loss of $47,100.

– Emergency Services receives 4.25-percent of the funds; so this year it received $421,429.03. In 2007, it will receive $379,286.13; a loss of $42,142.

– The County Infrastructure Fund receives 7.25-percent of the funds; so this year it received $718,908.35. In 2007, it will receive $647,017.51; a loss of $71,890.

– Economic Development receives .75-percent of the funds; so this year it received $74,369.83. In 2007, it will receive $66,932.85; a loss of $7,436.

– The County also provides regional revenue sharing funds with Jefferson, Ripley, and Crawford counties. Mike Jones said that these figures fall under an interlocal agreement, so the county attorney will be looking into whether or not these funds can be reduced. This is a pool of 10-percent of the revenue sharing funds, or $991,597.72. If they are reduced:

Jefferson County receives 50-percent of the funds; so this year it received $495,798.86. In 2007, it will receive $446,218.97; a loss of $49,579.

Ripley County receives 25-percent of the funds; so this year it received $247,899.43. In 2007, it will receive $223,109.49; a loss of $24,789.

Crawford County also receives 25-percent of the funds; so this year it received $247,899.43. In 2007, it will receive $223,109.49; a loss of $24,789.

– The Switzerland County YMCA receives 2.25-percent of the funds; so this year it received $223,109.49. In 2007, it will receive $200,798.54; a loss of $22,310.

– The Town of Vevay receives 7-percent of the funds; so this year it received $694,118.40. In 2007, it will receive $624,706.56; a loss of $69,411.

– The Town of Patriot receives 3-percent of the funds; so this year it received $297,479.32. In 2007, it will receive $267,731.39; a loss of $29,747.

– Each of the county’s six townships also receives a portion of the revenue sharing funds based on population in that township. These funds are administered by the township trustee:

Cotton Township receives 20-percent of 1.97-percent, so this year it received $39,068.95. In 2007, it will receive $35,162.05; a loss of $3,906.

Craig Township receives 20-percent of 1.13-percent, so this year it received $22,410.11. In 2007, it will receive $20,169.10; a loss of $2,241.

Jefferson Township receives 20-percent of 2.05-percent, so this year it received $40,655.51. In 2007, it will receive $36,589.96; a loss of $4,065.

Pleasant Township receives 20-percent of 1.75-percent, so this year it received $34,705.92. In 2007, it will receive $31,235.33; a loss of $3,470.

Posey Township receives 20-percent of 1.84-percent, so this year it received $36,490.80. In 2007, it will receive $32,841.72; a loss of $3,649.

York Township receives 20-percent of 1.26-percent, so this year it received $24,988.27. In 2007, it will receive $22,489.44; a loss of $2,498.

– The Switzerland County Fire Chiefs Association receives 80-percent of all township money, so this year it received $793,278.18. In 2007, it will receive $713,950.35; a loss of $79,327.

– The Community Foundation of Switzerland County receives 1-percent of the funds, so this year it received $99,159.77. In 2007, it will receive $89,243.80; a loss of $9,915.

– The Town of Florence receives 1/2-percent of the funds, so this year it received $49,579.88. In 2007, it will receive $44,621.90; a loss of $4,957.

– The Switzerland County Historical Society receives 1/2-percent of the funds, so this year it received $49,579.88. In 2007, it will receive $44,621.90; a loss of $4,957.

– The Switzerland County 4-H program receives 1-percent of the funds, so this year it received $99,159.77. In 2007, it will receive $89,243.80; a loss of $9,915.