County Council looks for ways to make cuts in 2019 budget

The Switzerland County Council met on Wednesday, August 8th, and the 2019 county budget was one of the big issues being discussed.

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The Switzerland County Council met on Wednesday, August 8th, and the 2019 county budget was one of the big issues being discussed.
Council members present at the meeting included: Elizabeth Jones, Lisa Fisher, Mike Bear, Andy Haskell, Glenn Scott, Rachel Schuler, and John Gary Welch; along with County Auditor Gayle Rayles.
With regard to the coming year’s budget, the council had asked representatives from various county offices to attend the meeting with regard to their 2019 budgets:
— Donna Faber from the Switzerland County Health Department said that the department’s budget shows a $46,000.00 deficit. Faber, and board member Dr. Robert Findley, worked on projected expenses for next year and have several areas where the requests can be reduced. Faber will email the changes to Rayles so she can revise their budget report.
— County Assessor Joan Armstrong and Deputy Assessor Stacey Mathews talked with the council about their budget for reassessment next year. The issue that the council had was the addition of a part-time employee being added into the General Fund budget in 2019. There is also a part-time employee in the reassessment budget. The department agreed to remove the one in the General Fund. Mathews said that, since she will be new to the assessor’s position next year, she may need to ask for the additional help, but for now she is fine with the change.
— No representative from the Switzerland County Nurse Managed Clinic was available at the meeting because staff was out of town for training.
— No representative from the Switzerland County Animal Shelter was present for the meeting.
— From the Switzerland County Recorder’s office, Nancy Barker agreed to remove $1,200 for repair and rebind from her 2019 budget. This expense can come out of her Records Perpetuation fund.
— Switzerland County Circuit Court Judge Greg Coy said that Rayles had contacted him about reductions in his office’s budget; and he offered to reduce the two public defender salaries by $2,500 each and the pauper attorney line item by $5,000 for a total of $10,000.
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Rayles explained that she and Jacque Clements of the Association of Indiana Counties had worked on the budget to try to trim it. The loss of approximately $250,000 in 2018 and $300,000 in 2019 from jail revenue has caused the need for reductions. In spite of the large amount that the county is over its maximum levy, there are several things that can be done to make it possible for the council to present a budget under the maximum levy and still give raises in 2019 to employees:
• All departments can review their budgets for the remainder of 2018. If there are line items that they know have significantly more money remaining than they are likely to spend in the next five months, the county can do an official budget reduction for 2018. Clements cautioned that this is not something an office would do for a small reduction ($50 or $100), but on more substantial amounts.
• All departments can review their history to see if the 2019 budgets are logical. In many cases the amounts are what has always been asked for and rarely used or only a small portion used. Clements said these reductions, no matter how small, all add up.
• There was a discussion on the decision to stop housing prisoners from other counties in our jail. Hiring additional jailers and capacity were discussed. Rayles asked Switzerland County Jail Commander LuAnn Schaefer if she would be willing to put together some figures on what the income would be if the county had five inmates from other counties for an entire year and what the cost of two additional jailers would be, so some logic could be applied to future plans.
• There was a discussion on the Emergency Response budget. Rayles said there is no need to be concerned about their budget. Their 2019 budget is in the black and history shows that this is very likely going to be the case.
County Commissioners Josh South said that Switzerland County Emergency Response has almost $500,000 in aging accounts. In spite of that, SCER is still able to cover all of its expenses. South explained that SCER does soft billing, with no collection agency pursuing those who don’t pay. Clements told him about a new program through the AIC that would allow the county to intercept Indiana tax refunds and lottery winnings for county owed debt. This has been done by the state and universities and now, with new legislation, is available to counties. There are a few things that need to be done in order to start the process. The commissioners will be looking into this.
Rayles said that in the past the raises were decided upon after all of the budget numbers are in. She said she would like to be able to build the raises into the numbers for the next meeting. This would present a more accurate picture for everyone. She asked for confirmation that there will be raises and, if so, what rate she could use.
There was a discussion that concluded with the use of three-percent. Bear brought up pay increases for EMR. After a brief discussion, it was decided that the same percentage would be applied to their payroll.
Rayles said that she will be sending out budget information for 2018 and 2019 to all of the departments asking for their 2018 reductions and 2019 changes. She acknowledged that some departments have such small budgets that no reductions can be made. She is asking that the revisions be returned to her by Friday, August 17th.
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In other business discussed by the County Council:
— Sarah Brichto gave an Opportunity Zone Update. She gave the council an overview of the opportunity zones. The federal government has designated distressed zones for a tax incentive. There are 156 zones in the State of Indiana. The east side of Switzerland County is one of the zones. The next closest to Switzerland County is Franklin County. This is an opportunity for investors to put money into real estate, businesses and improvements and avoid capital gains taxes over a period of time.
— There were three applications for the open position open on the Redevelopment Board: Joey Rider, Dr. Ivan Green, and Richard Yanikoski.
Council President Jones opened the floor for nominations. Fisher nominated Green and Haskell nominated Rider.
Scott felt that the council should have had some time to look at the applications. After some discussion, he made a motion to table the decision until the September meeting; Haskell seconded the motion and all agreed. Rayles is to scan and email the applications to all council members. No additional applications will be accepted, since the deadline to apply has passed. Jones will ask the two applicants who only submitted a statement of interest to provide resumes. The two current nominations remain on the floor to be voted on at the September meeting.