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Council eyes $8.4 million in requests for 2007

In preliminary budget sessions last week, the Harrison County Council put pencil to paper ‘ 157 pages worth ‘ to bring requests for funding county government offices and agencies in line with allowable tax levies next year. This afternoon at 5, the seven council members will bring out the erasers.
Not many corrections are expected at this stage, but some budget allowances may need to be funded with riverboat revenue instead of property tax dollars.
‘I think we’ve tried to hold the line pretty well,’ said council chair Gary Davis.
In the county general fund, from which most county government expenses are paid, the council has trimmed requests from $9.9 million to $8.4 million.
With some $800,000 available next year from riverboat revenue investments with the Harrison County Community Foundation, plus more than $130,000 remaining in the rainy day fund, Davis said it won’t be difficult to find the dollars that are needed to stay within the allowable tax levy.
The council expects to read each line item in the budget at the Aug. 28, 7 p.m., public meeting, and at the next meeting on Sept. 11, read the departmental totals and adopt the final budget for 2007.
The council has adopted three-percent increases for county employees who earn less than $30,000 a year, and $900 increases for those making more than $30,000. ‘That’s been approved by the council,’ Davis said. ‘That won’t change.’
Only one new employee will be allowed next year, and that is a full-time office assistant for Harrison County Animal Control Officer Mike Gentry.
Councilman Kenneth Saulman’s motion to approve $21,320 for the position, seconded by Alvin Brown, passed 5-1, with Rhonda Rhoads opposing.
She argued that a maintenance technician wasn’t allowed for David Simon, building maintenance supervisor, because he manages to get the job done with only part-time help.
‘Only in county government do you reward somebody for being inefficient,’ she said, referring to Gentry. ‘He gets more help.’
Davis said: ‘It hasn’t been established that he’s inefficient.
‘He just can’t be there all the time’ because he must respond to dog and cat complaints and sometimes pick up stray animals, Davis said.
Councilman Chris Timberlake said, ‘I toe the line on these new positions, but this is one I would consider.
‘He’s overwhelmed.’
Councilmen Ralph Sherman and Carl (Buck) Mathes also voted in favor of the additional employee.
The council, by consensus, cut funding for part-time help at the animal control facility in half, from $30,000 last year to $15,000.
In Simon’s budget for building maintenance and repairs, the council approved an increase of $10,000 for part-time help, from $15,000 to $25,000, next year.
Budgets that impact the amount that can be spent in the county general account are the funds for health department, parks, reassessment, cumulative building funds, ambulance and welfare (which is basically mandated by the state).
Some of those budgets still must be addressed. Spending in those areas impact spending in county general because county government gets only a set amount to operate and funding for those accounts comes off the top. The county general fund operates on what is left.
After the budgets are approved, the state is expected to determine the tax rates before the end of the year.
County general includes spending for courthouse offices, adult and juvenile law enforcement (police, prosecutors, coroners, probation officers, clerks and courts), property offices such as planning and zoning and surveying, voter registration and elections, a portion of township assessor’s budgets, and spending by the commissioners and council.
Highway budgets are also set by the council but funding comes from gasoline taxes.
School budgets are approved by the elected school trustees in each district.