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Community Services funding falls short

During a meeting that ended just after midnight last week, the Harrison County board of Commissioners, claiming a shortage of funds, approved only half of the Harrison County Community Services $208,0000 budget for 2007.
‘We won’t have any money until August,’ James Goldman, commissioner chair, told Shirley Raymond, executive director of community services, last week.
A plan was derived in 1996 by the Harrison County Riverboat Revenue Committee to determine how riverboat revenue would be spent once the county began receiving it. The revenue was divided into subgroups which include economic development, infrastructure, education, contingency and human services. Funding is also set aside for the revenue-sharing agreements to which the county has agreed.
Based on their plan, 10 percent of the riverboat revenue the county receives each year is set aside annually to fund human-service-related items, which includes funding for community services’ budget.
Recently, there have been numerous human services requests which has depleted the funds set aside for those types of expenditures. The county receives riverboat revenue from Caesars Indiana both monthly and quarterly, and it is deposited into one fund. However, the commissioners and Harrison County Council have used the revenue plan as a guideline for spending.
Chief Deputy Auditor Heather Metcalf said she estimates that the human services fund will be in the black after July.
In the meantime, the commissioners have been cutting requests, taking the money from one of the other four funds or denying the request altogether, something they did only once at their meeting last week.
Harrison County Council Chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes said during the council meeting Monday night he is in favor of taking human services requests from other funds if the human services budget is depleted, adding the spending plan was just a guideline.
However, some did not agree.
‘Some would like to ignore the categories, but (the commissioners) would like to keep some kind of guidelines,’ Commissioner J.R. Eckart told the council Monday.
County council member Leslie Robertson agreed.
‘I like the breakdown that gives me a guideline on what we’re spending,’ she said.
Both the commissioners and council agreed the spending plan may need some revision although increasing one fund meant decreasing another which could mean less funds available for education-related requests, infrastructure, economic development or less money in the contingency fund.
The commissioners and the council have approved the community services budget in two installments in the past.
Raymond repeated her request before the council Monday night.
‘The commissioners approved us coming to you for $104,000 and encouraged us to come back later for the second half,’ Raymond said, adding the agency’s request has been the same for several years.
Harrison County Community Services helped more than 2,000 households last year by providing emergency food and clothing and other crisis assistance.
‘Fourteen percent of the people in Harrison County received a direct service from us last year,’ Raymond said, adding that state and federal funding has been decreasing for such purposes.
Raymond told commissioners last week that she expects the privatization of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration would make other assistance programs more needed thus increasing the need for services through Harrison County Community Services.
She said community services would have money from the Metro United Way and the Harrison County Community Foundation, but they would not receive funds from United Way until June. She said Community Services has roughly $43,000 in cash on hand and the $104,000 would most likely be depleted by the end of June.
‘We will continue to assure that our citizens have access to the basic needs of living, food, clothing, shelter, utilities and medical care, Raymond said of the use of the riverboat funds she is requesting.
Eckart motioned to send Raymond to the council to request half of her budget; Commissioner Terry Miller seconded the motion. The council will vote on the request at its next meeting, March 12 at 7:30 p.m.
In other matters last week, the Harrison County Board of Commissioners heard a request made by South Harrison Water Corp. to close Rainy Well Road due to vandalism of public drinking water wells. The decision is pending following a public hearing to be set at a later date.