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Tax adviser recommends holding budget to 2% increase

The Harrison County Council held its first budget hearing session Monday night and received advice from Frank Cummings, the council’s financial advisor, that there’s no way the council can afford the proposed budget turned in by the county agencies, which would result in a 27-percent increase. Cummings said he would recommend a 2-percent total budget increase, from $8.5 million in 2008 to $8.7 million.
‘That’s in line with your income,’ said Cummings. ‘I know that’s not what you wanted to hear.’
Councilman Gordon Pendleton asked if the council would have to change the 3-percent raise estimated for county employees.
‘Not necessarily,’ said Cummings. ‘There (just) wouldn’t be an increase any place else.’
Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads said the council will have to watch additional spending.
‘We shouldn’t ever do additionals, hopefully,’ said Cummings. ‘They should be considered emergencies. That’s how you go broke.’
Cummings went on to compliment the council on its additional spending for the first six months of 2008. The council spent $61,000 for additionals out of the county general the first half of the year.
Council chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes said more of the riverboat money coming into the county should be saved.
‘If we’re going to save some, we’ll still have to go through the commissioners,’ said Mathes.
‘I’d be willing to talk to them,’ said Cummings.
Cummings said the highway department budget is 9 percent more than last year and $450,000 above its income. The department will not receive any more funds from the Major Moves plan from the Indiana Dept. of Transportation.
‘They can afford this budget, but they can’t do this every year,’ said Cummings.
Harrison County Auditor Pat Wolfe presented her budget request to the council Monday night, which included moving first deputy Heather Metcalf to chief deputy.
‘She’s gone way beyond even my expectations,’ said Wolfe.
‘We don’t have anyone as good to work with as Heather,’ said Cummings, who is a financial adviser for six counties.
Wolfe wants four first deputies and five second deputies, including one each under cartographer Ralph Schoen. Wolfe was granted two part-time deputies by the council this year and plans to keep them for 2009. The part-time employees work five days a week, one from 8 a.m. to noon and the other from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
‘It’s working pretty good,’ said Wolfe, who requested a 5-percent increase in salary for her employees.
Darrell Voelker, Harrison County’s economic development director, presented a budget of $500,000, the same as 2008. Voelker said he continues to try to fill the building vacated by Tower Automotive. He also said Norstam Veneers began construction two weeks ago on the building destroyed Feb. 2 by fire.
‘I don’t appreciate them buying a whole lot of their supplies out of Kentucky when they can get it right here,’ commented Mathes. ‘Just pass that along to them.’
Gloria Wood, executive director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), proposed an extensive increase in her budget.
‘Everything we work with has increased,’ she said. ‘I, myself, am having to donate hours.’
Nobody in the department is considered full-time, said Wood.
She requested a salary increase from part-time ($20,457) to full-time ($43,200) and an increase in the volunteer coordinator line from $9,785 to $19,008. She also requested $1,000 in attorney fees; no money was funded in that line item last year.
‘I don’t anticipate using it, but I like to know it’s there,’ said Wood.
The council also heard requests from county Treasurer Carol Hauswald, chief juvenile probation officer Liz Day, Circuit Court Judge H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis and Harrison County Lifelong Learning executive director Doug Robson.
Last night (Tuesday), the council was expected to hear budget requests from the county assessor, the county building maintenance supervisor, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, planning and zoning, weights and measures, Purdue Extension and 4-H, the health department, the county commissioners and the highway department.
On the agenda today, beginning at 4:30, is the Emergency Medical Services director, the prosecutor, Veterans Service Officer, Blue River Services Inc., the county surveyor, Emergency Management Agency director, the coroner, the soil and water department and the county parks department.
Tomorrow, also starting at 4:30, the council will hear requests from the circuit clerk, LifeSpring Inc., the superior court judge, adult probation office, the animal control officer and, at 6, the sheriff’s department.
All budget hearings, which are open to the public, are held in the Commissioners/Council Room of the Harrison County Court House.