Local groups are uncertain over fallout of county riverboat revenue sharing cuts


With the announcement that the Switzerland County Council is pulling almost $1 million out of the county’s riverboat revenue sharing plan for 2007, several entities that receive funds are now unsure of what direction they will go to make up the shortfall.

The biggest loser in the agreement is the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation, which will lose nearly $140,000 over previous years. Those funds have been used in the past to fund all sorts of projects for the benefit of county school children; from the expansion of the high school gym to new bleachers to updated equipment in all buildings.

It has also helped taxpayers and parents, as funds have been used each year to pay the debt service portion of the school’s tax levy, which means lower taxes for all landowners; and the endowment corporation has also paid all of the fees for textbook rental, which means keeping money in parent’s pockets at an average of about $100 per student.

With less money now coming in, superintendent Tracy Caddell says that he expects those two important programs to continue – but other changes may be forced to be made in order to make up the shortfall.

The endowment corporation uses all of its funds to promote capital projects, so no salaries are paid with the funds, meaning that no personnel will be lost.

But the real impact will come in the capital projects portion of property taxes, where the lost funds will now be made up.

“It’s going to affect the taxpayers of Switzerland County more than it’s going to affect our school system,” Tracy Caddell said. “We advertise our capital projects fund at a rate of 23-cents, which raises money in our capital projects fund. In the 2007 budget, that will raise $673,072. That’s the actual money that our taxpayers will come up with.”

Under the state guidelines, the Switzerland County School Corporation could advertise a capital projects rate of 42-cents, close to double the current rate; but because of the subsidized capital projects from the endowment, that hasn’t been necessary.

“What will happen for the budget year 2008 (the 2007 budget is finished and won’t be adjusted), is that the school will have to put the shortfall back on the capital projects tax rate,” Tracy Caddell said.

Tracy Caddell said that because the school corporation is one of the few entities receiving riverboat revenue sharing funds that has a direct effect on the county’s property tax rate, then the school has little choice but to ask for an increase in taxes to offset the loss.

The endowment also pays the school’s debt service, which saves taxpayers approximately 20-cents on their overall rate.

“Paying the debt service for the taxpayers is our number one priority,” the superintendent said. “After that comes paying for the textbooks. Whatever’s left will then go to pay for capital projects. We try and be good stewards of the funds that the county has given to us up to this point, so the debt service and the textbooks will continue to be priorities.”

Tracy Caddell said that the debt service results in approximately $600,000 being paid from the school endowment funds; while depending on what classes are taken and what subject new textbooks are purchased for in a given year, the textbook rental fees cost between $160,000 and $200,000 per year.

“With the savings on the debt service and the capital projects funds that we’ve been able to do because of this money, we’re talking about 40-42 cents that is coming off of the tax rate, and that doesn’t even figure in the textbook savings for people,” the superintendent said.

But even though the 10-percent cut will hurt, the superintendent is still appreciative of the funds that come to the endowment.

“Although the schools are getting a lot of money from revenue sharing – and we are and we appreciate it – we are returning a lot of that money back to the taxpayers of Switzerland County,” Tracy Caddell said. “It’s their money. They can do whatever they want to with it. The school system is not upset with the county council. We appreciate everything they’ve done; and we appreciate the endowment and what it’s done. We’ve had this money and now we don’t. I’m certainly not trying to pit the schools against any other entity or anything. We counted on that money and now we don’t have it, so we’ll move forward.”


Other entities who suffered budget cuts have varying degrees of concern.

Robbie Meek, director of Switzerland County Emergency Services, said that the biggest impact to his organization will be in payroll, which accounts for about $470,000 per year – more than what the group gets from revenue sharing.

“Obviously the cuts aren’t favorable to us, but the county council has told us that it wants us to come to them and ask for what we need, so that’s what we’ll do.”

Robbie Meek said that the EMS had previously gone to the County Commissioners and had requested more money to operate on for next year; but now the group will work with the council on pressing needs.

Robbie Meek said that the organization’s run volume is increasing, and with that comes more equipment needs and supplies. He also said that the EMS building is in need of repairs, and the group would someday like to build a new facility that would better suit its needs.

“It’s going to be tougher because we’re already in a need situation,” Robbie Meek said. “With the opening of the new road and other factors, our runs have increased and continue to do so. The council has asked us to show them our need, and that’s what we’re going to do, because we can show our needs.”

With runs increasing, that means that there is more wear and tear on equipment, especially ambulances. The newest ambulance in the fleet is less than a year old and already has 40,000 miles on it; which calculates to about 200,000 miles by this time next year.

Two box trucks used by the EMS already have more than 150,000 miles on them; and other vehicles have passed 100,000 miles.

“If we have to keep buying ambulances every year to handle our run volume, then we will never be able to do other projects like building a new facility, which we desperately need,” Robbie Meek said.

The EMS has also been considering adding a second crew to help with the run volume, but again that comes back to funding. The riverboat revenue sharing currently accounts for approximately 60-percent of the EMS budget, with the remainder coming from patient billing – and much of that is set by Medicare and Medicaid rates.

“We feel good about being able to show the council our needs, and we feel that the council is willing to work with us on this matter,” Robbie Meek said.


Switzerland County Sheriff Nathan Hughes said that the loss of the money will have very little affect on his department, mainly because he has been using his funds to help with the repayment of the construction of the jail and the funds needed to get the new jail up and running.

He does pay for some employee salaries using riverboat revenue sharing funds, but doesn’t feel that the cuts will mean less deputies patrolling the county.

Vevay town clerk-treasurer Donna Graham said that the Vevay Town Council doesn’t specify from year to year what the money will be used for; instead keeping it in reserve to help with community projects that come up during the year.

That means that town services will not be affected by the cuts, but it does mean that groups coming to the town council in search of monetary help for projects may not get what they need.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how things go,” Donna Graham said.