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Council hits mark with county general budget at $8.5M

The Harrison County Council sludged its way through 162 pages of monetary requests on its way to completing work on the 2008 budget. Council members spent four different meetings spanning a two-week period in late August looking at the requests from the various county offices. They also had four budget hearing meetings earlier in the month.
Council chair Carl (Buck) Mathes and vice chair Chris Timberlake read section and department totals to the public Monday night during their regular meeting.
The council kept the county general budget at the $8.5 million mark as advised by financial advisor Frank Cummings to be in compliance with the four-percent tax levy. The council is planning for a three-percent increase in pay for county employees.
Initial cuts of about $500,000 left the council with a $9.6 million county general figure. But with more than $1 million more needing to be cut, the council turned to CEDIT economic development funds and the Riverboat fund to balance the budget. The CEDIT fund collects $1.4 million a year, with $788,000 going to the jail and the remainder available for use.
‘If they (taxpayers) have to pay it, I’m sure they would want to see it being used,’ said Timberlake.
The council had $2.2 million from the Riverboat fund to use to balance the budget.
The most difficult section for the council to comb through was the sheriff’s department. The sheriff plans to shift employees in position and rank, causing their salaries to change.
‘If he (Sheriff Mike Deatrick) feels like this will work, then I think he should get the opportunity,’ said Councilwoman Leslie Robertson.
Mathes echoed her comments.
‘I’m satisfied he’ll have a better jail operation,’ he said.
The sheriff’s department total is $965,000, smaller than the requested $1,147,261 but larger than last year’s budget of $946,911.
One of the largest increases from the 2007 budget comes in the election board, since 2008 is an election year. The election board department total went from $13,250 in 2007, to $161,757 for 2008. Each board member receives $2,000 per election, with two elections in the coming year.
The budget will be read again and adopted at the council’s meeting on Monday, Sept. 24.
In other matters Monday night, the council:
‘ Heard from Barbara Middleton, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, who discussed a $439,000 loan made by the county to the Chamber in 2002 as they developed the Industrial Park. With the sale of some of those lots, the Chamber is prepared to repay the $439,000. Middleton said, though, she has approached the commissioners about designating that money for future economic development by the Chamber.
‘If we find a project beneficial to the county, we can then come back and ask for the $439,000,’ said Middleton.
‘I think it’s important for the commissioners and council to look to the future, and plan ahead with our money,’ said Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads.
Mathes explained that the economic development fund has $1.6 million.
‘I don’t see where it’s of much value for you to keep this earmarked,’ Mathes continued. ‘Put it back in the parent account and go on.’
‘ Granted $6,000 to help pay for overtime at the jail and heard a request for $5,000 in overtime for the sheriff’s department for officers and dispatchers.
‘I have concerns about all of the overtime,’ said Rhoads, who researched jail overtime posted from January to March earlier this year.
‘In a two-week period, a nurse has 65 hours of overtime,’ she noted.
‘The issue is we don’t really know what they’re doing,’ said Commissioner James Goldman.
Robertson suggested that the sheriff appear before the council to explain the reason for the overtime. Chief Gary Gilley said much of the overtime is a result of transport officers.
‘Granted $18,840 to the Comfort House to aid in its relocation effort. Currently located in Milltown, the Comfort House hopes to move to a more central location near Corydon. Comfort House is a not-for-profit collaborative effort of local agencies that work to combat child sexual abuse.
‘ Learned that the Town of Palmyra has withdrawn its request for nearly $125,000 for the senior center. The request was withdrawn because the Harrison County Community Foundation is helping fund the project.