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Council may adopt budget Monday

The Harrison County Council expects to act on numerous requests for funding and adopt next year’s budget at Monday night’s regular 7 o’clock meeting at the courthouse.
The first reading of the budgets for county offices and departments was expected last night (after this newspaper’s deadline), if the council first reached a consensus on the amounts it will pay for county employees’ health insurance. Premiums are expected to increase as much as 22 percent in April.
Workers who make less than $25,000 a year will get a cost-of-living increase of three percent in January. Individuals who earn $25,000 or more will get a $750 raise. Councilman Kenneth Saulman’s motion adopting the salary committee’s recommendation, seconded by Alvin Brown, passed unanimously.
Council chair Gary Davis said county budget requests overall will be cut to keep any increases in line with the five percent allowed by the state for tax levy increases. That means about $1 million less than the $8 million requested in county general budgets. Other taxing units, such as parks and welfare, which help make up the county government tax rate, may be adjusted as well by the council.
Property taxes levied for school districts, townships, the library, fire protection districts, solid waste management and the state are not controlled by the council, but by elected or appointed representatives in each of those units.
Besides the budget, the council has several other money decisions to make Monday night, including regular monthly revenue-sharing from Caesars Indiana gaming taxes and other riverboat revenue requests.
Those requests include $90,000 for the Harrison Way infrastructure improvements (water, sewer and rail service, etc.) and improvements to the railroad crossing on Harrison Way.
The Harrison Way infrastructure project is necessary, said economic development director J. Brian Fogle, to move forward with Lucas Oil Products’ opening. Bids for the project came in higher than anticipated, so funds already committed to pay for the project — $94,000 each from the county and state — won’t be enough to cover the costs.
The low bid for infrastructure improvements was $231,849, or $43,849 more than what’s available, Fogle said. “The bids were substantially over budget,” Fogle said, adding that earlier estimates provided by an engineering firm were off-base apparently because they had to be provided quickly to obtain the state funds. The state, however, won’t kick in additional dollars now, Fogle added.
An alternate bid was taken to improve the railroad crossing on Harrison Way, which will handle additional traffic from 50 workers after Lucas Oil opens. The low bid on that was $36,895, which brings the total needed to $74,330 if the council wants to plan ahead for the increased traffic.

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