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Executive approval needed to balance budget with riverboat interest earnings

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners informed council members Monday night they will need executive approval before using interest accumulated from riverboat funds to balance the county’s general fund.
If the funds are not approved, it could create a serious shortfall in next year’s budget.
‘It was assumed that $600,000 was going into county general as interest off this fund,’ council chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes said Monday night, referring to the endowment set up by the commissioners with riverboat incentive payments and approved by the council a little more than two years ago.
Steve Gilliland, executive director of the Harrison County Community Foundation, said interest from that endowment, which is invested through the Foundation, will exceed $900,000 this year. The investment income is expected to exceed $1 million next year and will continue whether tax revenues from Caesars Indiana continues or not. County general has already received $380,000 from interest that has accrued this year.
The council planned to use $600,000 of the anticipated $900,000 in this year’s budget.
This is the first year the council has used interest from that endowment to balance the county’s budget. The 2007 budget topped $8.2 million, a two-percent increase in expenditures from county general last year.
Commissioner J.R. Eckart said other riverboat fund requests are heard by the commissioners and then forwarded to the council, and that the interest earned from the endowment should not be any different.
‘Ultimately, it takes both boards to expend the fund,’ Eckart said, adding the council needs to make a request to the commissioners to spend interest as well.
Council member Gordon Pendleton asked Eckart and Commissioner Terry Miller what the concern was with the council spending the interest earned on the funds.
‘It gets us back to the two and four again,’ he said explaining that it takes two commissioners and four council members to spend any of the riverboat funds.
Council members were concerned Monday that the county may have a shortage of funds in the 2007 budget which was approved last September.
Pendleton said he has no problem asking for the revenue. ‘I just want to make sure we don’t come up short,’ he said.
Eckart said another concern is that the interest could provide a cushion if the riverboat funds should one day dwindle away.
The council still has not received $220,000 of the funding from interest they expected to be deposited into county general. The commissioners are requesting that the council seek commissioner approval for those funds.
The county’s general fund covers day-to-day operations and salaries for agencies and departments, including courthouse, zoning, Extension office, property record’s offices and law enforcement.
In other matters Monday night, the Harrison County Council:
‘ Approved $2 million for Harrison County’s public schools. The sum will be divided between the three schools based on enrollment. Lanesville Community School Corp. will receive $213,514, North Harrison Community School Corp., $743,646 and South Harrison Community School Corp., a little more than $1 million.
‘ Approved a request for $85,000 made by the Harrison County Emergency Medical Services for a new ambulance.
‘ Approved a $2,500 request for a new cot for Harrison County Coroner Steve Hamm’s transportation van.
‘ Heard a request for nearly $24,000 for new computer equipment for Harrison County Circuit Court.
‘ Heard a request from Blue River Services Inc. for $75,000 for a vehicle repair and maintenance facility. The funds would provide a 15-percent match for a grant BRS is seeking to provide the major portion of the funding needed to build the facility.