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2010 may see budget squeeze

Chief Deputy to the Auditor Heather Metcalf Monday night reported budget projections for 2010 compiled by Frank Cummings, the Harrison County Council’s financial advisor.
The report showed the county’s estimated income total falling nearly $500,000 from 2008. Metcalf also reported that the council spent nearly $500,000 more than the county’s income in 2008. It marked the first time the county spent over its income since 2005. But, the county did not receive part of the 2008 income until this year, which left the cash balance well in the black.
Each year in April or May, the Auditor’s office sends a letter to each county department seeking a budget request for the following year. The council advised Auditor Pat Wolfe to ask the department heads to be reasonable with their budget requests and to notify them of the estimated shortfall in income for next year and the amount spent above the county’s income last year.
Depauw resident Phil Smith suggested a salary freeze for all elected officials in 2010. This year, only the council members, Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick and Tony Combs, health department coordinator, received spending freezes.
The council will begin its budget process in July.
Cummings also gave the council options to consider, including the adoption of a Local Option Income Tax. Cummings estimated the potential tax would produce $1.7 million in Harrison County. He also said the ‘tax cap’ or ‘circuit breaker’ issue (which is the 1 percent property tax cap on homes, 2 percent on farmland and rental property and 3 percent for commercial or business property) will have little effect in the county in regard to lost revenue at least for the next few years. The council unanimously voted not to adopt any LOIT last year and on multiple occasions in 2007.
In other business Monday night, the council approved a five-year tax abatement for manufacturing equipment at Norstam Veneers Inc. near Mauckport and a 10-year abatement for real estate improvements at the site. The equipment subject to the abatement cannot exceed $3,685,790, and the real estate improvements $2,360,000.
The Harrison County Economic Development Corp. did not recommend ‘clawback’ language to be included in the agreement. Councilman Jim Heitkemper encouraged the board to consider a ‘clawback clause’ at the council’s March 9 meeting.
The council voted, 4-1, in favor of the agreement, without the ‘clawback clause.’ Heitkemper was against, and Councilwoman Leslie Robertson was absent.
The council tabled an additional request of $90,275 for half of the cost for modern rest rooms at Hayswood Nature Reserve west of downtown Corydon. The other half was requested from the Harrison County Community Foundation, but the Foundation’s next grant cycle will not be complete until September.
The board unanimously approved $382,000 for road improvements at South Harrison Park near Elizabeth and $750,000 for the proposed Emergency Medical Services building.