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Fri, Oct 31, 2014 07:32 PM
Issue of October 29, 2014
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County general fund $1.19 million in black

January 29, 2014 | 09:12 AM

The Harrison County Council reported Monday evening that the county general budget, as of Jan. 1, had a surplus of $1.19 million, as reported by Councilman Phil Smith.

Smith said he and Auditor Karen Engleman recently completed the fiscal year 2013 summary of the fund but still have the parks, health and highway departments' budgets to go.

"That's unprecedented," Councilman Jim Heitkemper said.

Smith said they had a shortfall in recent years but asked department heads to cut their budgets accordingly, and they have.

"Now, we have a nice beginning balance," Smith said.

Ideally, Engleman said, the county should have closer to half of the General Fund budget on hand at the beginning of the year to cover expenses until the tax settlement. That would mean the county needs about a $4.5 million surplus to begin the year.

Councilman Gordon Pendleton reminded the council that it used $2 million from the county's fund from the Harrison County Community Foundation to keep the general fund out of the red at the end of 2013.

"We don't want to pat ourselves on the back," Pendleton said.

He said he hates to see the county take money out of the Foundation account.

"That's not what it was meant for," he said.

Pendleton said they didn't need to use the $2 million.

Smith said there was no way to know what exactly was needed until the books were complete for the year, so they did, in fact, need the money to stay out of the red and be in compliance with Indiana Dept. of Local Government Finance.

Pendleton also said he disagreed with the council's decision to allocate $2.5 million out of the same fund for the same purpose for 2014.

"We may not need it," Smith said.

It was noted that Council Chair Gary Davis was absent from the meeting because he broke his femur earlier in the day after a fall at his home. Commissioner Kenny Saulman reported that Davis' femur jammed into his hip after the fracture and will require physical therapy to avoid hip replacement surgery.

In other business, the council unanimously approved the following additional appropriations out of riverboat gaming funds: $250,000 for Boone Township Volunteer Fire Dept.; $50,000 for a grant match for the Leora Brown School in Corydon; and $6,000 for a kneeling system for the Harrison County EMS ambulances.

The council, at its next meeting, which will be Monday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center, will vote whether to hire two resource officers for South Harrison schools. The officers will be members of the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. and will work for the county when school is not in session.

The Town of Corydon has approved an officer for the Corydon Central campus, while one of the county officers will work the South Central campus and the other will cover Heth-Washington and New Middletown Elementary schools.

The council also will vote on a $250,000 request from Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. for a portion of the cost of a new pumper tanker fire apparatus.

The council heard a report from Rand Heazlitt, director of the Harrison County Parks Dept., about the accomplishments of 2013 and plans for this year, and a report and demonstration from Randy Smith of 39 Degrees North about the GIS tracking system with the highway department vehicles (animal control and the assessor vehicles are also utilizing the program).

Twitter: @rossschulz

  1. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 10:03 AM

    So, SMith takes $2,000,000 out of the Community Fund to put in County General. Then he brags about being $1,900,000 in the black. What kind of a shell game is he running. You are right Heitkemper, that is unprecedented. Looks to me like they were $100,000 in the hole.

  2. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 10:09 AM

    Sorry I went back and re-read the article. They are over $800,000 in the red. I'll be sure and read a little closer the next time.

  3. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 03:03 PM

    What a group we have on the Council. Them patting themselves on the back even though their fiscal mismanagement is repeating over and over. What they have done is like a family overspending their income and then robbing part of their retirement savings, and then complimenting themselves for it. The Council ought to read the news on how casino revenue in Indiana is down and Kentucky seems closer then ever to gambling there. This money won't last forever. Maybe you all need to reconsider your headline next time to "$2 Million Dollar Bailout Rescues the General Fund".

  4. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 04:07 PM

    It's nice how Gordon Pendleton says he hates taking money out of the Foundation account.

    He sure didn't mind using $8 million of the Foundation money to build the new government office complex. He also didn't mind giving $8 million of it to bail out the hospital.

    But when the county spends some of the interest on its Foundation money to balance the books from years of overspending, Pendleton complains.

    The county's Foundation account was created for just this purpose, not to be raided for building construction or bailouts.

    The alternative is to cut services or raise taxes. I doubt anyone wants that.

  5. print email
    They Forget
    January 30, 2014 | 04:09 PM

    Gordon must be forgetting things, its ok we understand we all get there at some point in life. How quickly Gordon forgets that he appropriated over $5 million dollars out of that fund to remodel the old hospital in that inflated renovation project. Then it took another $1 million dollars to buy all new furniture cause the old stuff would not do. All of this was done in a way to go around the law that would have required a public remonstrance period to object. But that was Gordon and his old buddy Terry Miller.

    After the spent all of this money with their old buddy Brett Dodd he came back just months later to tell them they needed to give him more. They hired him to come back and make the building he just completed handicapped accessible, not sure why that was left out of the first plan. Maybe RQAW needed a little more to be able to give a little more political contributions.

    Maybe Gordon forgot that every year he was spending money from that same fund but at the end of the year they were still running in the red.

    So Gordon be careful not to forget the past when you are criticizing the present. What is more important is be cautious of the future and lets not end up the way you left us a few years ago in the red, or maybe that was Pat Wolfe's default calculator.

  6. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 07:24 PM

    Kind of funny that in order to defend the current leadership on the Council, their supporters can only rely on personal attacks. Quite sad, but personal attacks seem to be the local Republican Party's method of operation of late.

  7. print email
    January 30, 2014 | 10:05 PM

    The assistance to the County owned Hospital was worth every penny and more. The Hospital absorbs millions of dollars in charity each year that most municipality owned Hospitals pass on. If the Hospital passed on the cost of charity to the County, $ 8 million would seem like nothing.

    We have an incredible facility in our County and we are lucky to have it.

  8. print email
    community fund
    January 31, 2014 | 08:36 AM

    The community fund was created by the commissioners so that the county would always have a savings account to fund needed projects in our county. The council has been using this money to balance their books every year, and the deficit just keeps growing. Now they claim that this is the intended purpose of the community fund. seems to me that the Republicans will say anything to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public.

    James Goldman
  9. print email
    General Fund In The Black
    January 31, 2014 | 08:37 AM

    NEWS PAPER HEADLINES CAN BE MISLEADING----The thing that I don't want to do is mislead the public into thinking that the we on the Council, have balance the County General Fund with general tax receipts.
    The Council has done some good housekeeping work the last few years. However, the expenditures from the General Fund in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 have exceeded the tax revenues. This will be true again in 2014,

    I would like to point out that funds taken from the Foundation for long term capital improvements are quite a bit different than paying for every day expenses.

    I was not criticizing the present Council, of which I am a part. I only think that the public should not be misled by misleading headlines.

    Gordon Pendleton
  10. print email
    January 31, 2014 | 09:17 AM

    There's nothing misleading about the headline, it's a cut and dried fact. The stories with the headlines about the $2 million from the Foundation were in the paper back when it happened. The pre-Davis/Smith council would use $2 million of riverboat funds directly to balance out the budget and still wind up in the red come January 1. At least this council stays compliant, in the black when it needs to be, and leaves the annual boat funds for things other than every day expenses.

  11. print email
    January 31, 2014 | 09:45 AM

    The only portion of the Community Fund that is allowed to be spent is a portion of the "interest" income from it, ie the money that is generated each year from it being invested. The idea being that as this fund grows, it will provide a stable future source of revenue to the county without having to raise taxes.

    That is exactly what the Council is currently using it for.

    It is a fact that several times, to build the new government center and to finance the hospital, past councils have diverted money intended for the Community Fund into other projects. Regardless of whether you think those were good allocations of money or not, it is a fact that money was diverted before it ever got into the Community Fund to pay for those projects. The whole purpose of restricting the fund so that only the investment return could be spent was to avoid having the principle spent in such a way.

    You can deal with the General Fund shortfall through:

    1) raising taxes,
    2) deep cuts in county services,
    3) budgeting with riverboat dollars,
    or 4) investment returns from the Community Fund.

    Nobody wants 1 or 2.

    3 is how it has often been done in the past, but that way leaves the county vulnerable if the boat money is ever lost.

    4 is the only long-term solution, along with growing the county's tax base through economic development, which the county has also been working a lot on in recent years.

    Of course, it's much easier for politicians to point fingers at each other than deal with the reality of the situation, which is that the county has lived well beyond its means for a very long time.

  12. print email
    5 Years of Overspending?
    January 31, 2014 | 11:16 AM

    Mr Pendleton recently posted above that we're going on the 5th year of overspending?

    Perhaps eliminating all discretionary spending and cutting back to only the essentials to take another look at why the expenditures from the General Fund from 2010-2014 have exceeded the tax revenues. What do you do at home if you spend more than you have...ohhh you can't do that! Nor should we as a County. Break the 5 year trend and fix it!

  13. print email
    January 31, 2014 | 05:45 PM

    This has been a very long term problem with overspending everyday expenses. The practice of using riverboat funds to help balance the budget actually goes back all the way to 2002, when Gary Davis was Council Chair.

  14. print email
    James Goldman Forgets
    January 31, 2014 | 09:30 PM

    James Goldman says the Republicans will say anything. All expenses from the community foundation require approval. James during your time as a Commissioner did a Democrat Council ever use money from the Community Foundation to fund the budget?

  15. print email
    Foundation Funds
    January 31, 2014 | 11:19 PM

    What a tremendous FORUM! It lets people state their understandings and feelings in an open manner. Too bad that it can't be seen by a greater number of people in the full paper.

    I know that one of the above contributors feels that I am too old and can't remember my votes on important County business. (I know his motives.) However, I know that my memory is good enough to remember his grandfather.

    Enough of that, what I really remember is why and when the County Riverboat Fund was set up in the Foundation.

    The main reason for setting up the Fund was that County Government was taking a lot of heat about spending too much of incoming riverboat funds. People were saying, "What happens when the riverboat leaves? What will we do then?" So the commissioners set up this fund for when the boat leaves.

    I know that people have different ideas about that. However, since I was president of the Foundation at the time and taking part in the negotiations I feel that my recollection is accurate.

    The main reason that I don't like using Foundation funds is the loss of the earning power on these funds. We have about $27,000,000 in riverboat funds in local banks earning less than 1% that could be used to subsidize the General Fund. The Foundation funds ($50,000,000 ) over the past few years have been earning over 10%. You can do the math .

    Gordon Pendleton
  16. print email
    Thank You Mr. Pendelton
    January 31, 2014 | 11:49 PM

    He's right, the article headline is absolutely misleading. Last I checked if I needed to use money out of my savings account to pay my monthly bills I'm not "in the black." I hope the author has a significant other who balances his checkbook.

    New Salisbury Resident
  17. print email
    Breaking it Down
    February 02, 2014 | 02:20 PM

    It's clear that the county spends more money than is collected in taxes that doesn't include the riverboat. This year is no different than any other in just how funds are being shifted. As someone who voted for the boat I hope we are using the money to invest in our community. I'm not sure why this council and this author are trying to convince us otherwise but they are being disingenuous.

    Tax Payer
  18. print email
    Amazing Guestion
    February 03, 2014 | 01:27 PM

    I can answer your question of Mr. Goldman.

    The answer is no. We have spent County riverboat money on the County General Fund for a long time.

    However, these were not funds from the County Foundation funds. That is the point I was trying to make before.

    Gordon Pendleton
  19. print email
    February 03, 2014 | 02:02 PM

    Gordon, how much money have you voted to have diverted that was headed for the County Foundation fund?

  20. print email
    Funds From Foundation
    February 03, 2014 | 04:04 PM

    I still think this is a great way to inform the public>

    I have voted to divert,if you wish to call it that, funds over the years. However, as I have pointed out these were for capital improvements not for every day operating expenses.

    Gordon Pendleton
  21. print email
    February 03, 2014 | 06:52 PM

    Thank you Gordon for clarifying the issue. Using external funds to supplement the budget is not really a surplus. How lucky we are to have the Riverboat and Community Foundation at our disposal. It is good to be reminded where the money to pay our bills comes from.
    As a former reporter and editor I don't believe the Democrat intended their headline to be misleading. They were just reporting what said by Phil Smith.
    I do find it interesting that writers who are questioning your motives and memory do not have the integrity to sign their posts and instead hurl insults in anonymity.
    Alisa Burch

    Alisa Burch
  22. print email
    Great Forum
    February 05, 2014 | 10:21 AM

    I have been reading through the responses and some offer solid factual information, some mostly personal opinion. However, all are worth considering as each offers something to the public input that our Elected Officials need to be constantly in touch with.

    I've spent my complete life in Harrison County and I've grown up believing in the value of a persons name and their handshake. I just wish the people that offer their comments would provide their name. It gives so much to validate your comments.

    Thank you all for participating and being concerned about your Government.

    J.R. Eckart

    J.R. Eckart
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