Posted on

Tightening the county’s belt

A look into the future indicates Harrison County may experience a budget shortfall in 2010 and that some creative cost-saving measures now could help prevent a dire situation next year.
Financial adviser Frank Cummings’ prediction of a $500,000 deficit, as announced last week by Chief Deputy Auditor Heather Metcalf, isn’t good news, but county officials have time to find an optimal solution to close the gap between the county’s income and expenses.
When talking about a budget in the $9 million range (the county is operating on nearly an $8.7 million budget this year), it won’t be easy to find ways to make up the difference.
Cummings suggested the council, the governing body that controls the county’s purse strings, adopt a Local Option Income Tax. And while such a tax could bring in an additional $1.7 million to the county’s coffers, it’s hard to imagine residents being receptive to another tax when Harrison County has a hefty nest egg in the bank that comes from the golden goose, the gaming facility in Bridgeport.
Voters who supported legalized gambling in the 1996 referendum will say they favored a riverboat docking here based on the selling point that it would help reduce their taxes.
While the county’s revenue sharing from Caesars Indiana, now Horseshoe Southern Indiana, has done much for residents ‘ gravel roads are nearly non-existent, the number of county police officers has increased, fire departments are blessed with newer equipment, etc. ‘ most Harrison Countians don’t see many of those benefits on a day-to-day basis. Instead, they want to see a direct impact on their pocketbook ‘ and who can blame them? ‘ so they aren’t likely to be accepting of any kind of tax.
Political watchdog Phil Smith suggested at last week’s county council meeting a salary freeze for all elected officials.
Keeping spending at the previous year’s level isn’t new; the seven-member council, sheriff and the health department coordinator experienced that this year.
So, expanding a freeze to other departments makes sense, especially in today’s economy where so many businesses are having to do the same thing.
Let’s just hope officials can tighten the county’s belt and reduce the budget wherever possible while ensuring there’s sufficient funds to complete the necessary tasks at hand without skimping on quality. Being prudent never goes out of style.