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More tax relief falls 1 vote short

The Harrison County Council continued the 2010 budget process last week, putting pencil to paper on the line-by-line department budgets.
The council agreed to not create any new positions but did not come to a consensus on the salaries for current employees.
Multiple motions were attempted, ranging from flat-lining the salaries to a 2-percent raise with a $600 cap. No motion received the needed four votes to pass. Council financial advisor Frank Cummings recommended a 1-percent raise for the entire general fund and said the county would be able to support a 1-percent raise for employees.
The council continued budget deliberations last night (Tuesday) and will complete the budget tonight.
Last Wednesday night, Councilman Ralph Sherman made the motion to increase the property tax relief amount previously implemented through the school corporations from $2 million to $3 million. Councilman Jim Heitkemper seconded, and Councilman Gordon Pendleton also voted for the increase.
‘Tough times are coming,’ Heitkemper said.
Councilwoman Leslie Robertson and Councilmen Richard Gerdon and William T. (Bill) Nichols voted against, and Chairman Chris Timberlake broke the tie by voting against the increase.
Robertson said she would rather have the school board officials come to the council to request the funds.
Timberlake said he heeded the advice of the Harrison County Board of Commissioners, which advised the council to keep the amount the same, because the state frowns upon riverboat gaming funds being used for tax reduction instead of infrastructure improvements.
Commissioner James Goldman said other Indiana county officials have complained to him about the use of riverboat funds for tax relief.
‘I’m concerned about that voice getting too loud,’ he said.
Goldman said the board may still look to create an ordinance to change the method of property tax relief because in the past the schools haven’t always spent the funds in the manner the county would have liked.
The property tax relief amount for citizens began at $3.5 million and was reduced yearly before settling at the $2 million mark for the past several years.
In other budget matters, the council has yet to determine whether to pay township trustees after their assessing duties were eliminated last year. The council voted to not pay the trustees for assessing duties in 2009, except for the mandated level 2 certification. Some counties have elected to pay the full township assessors’ salaries to avoid potential legal action.

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