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Budget problem identified but not solved

The Harrison County Council discussed the origin of the county general shortfall, which is approximately $1.1 million, not $1.6 million as was originally thought, at its regular meeting Monday night at the Government Center in Corydon.
Council vice chair Phil Smith explained that the estimated revenue for the county was too high, at more than $8.8 million, when the actual revenue for the year was only $7.5 million.
‘We don’t know how it started, but we need to look at it to make sure 2012 estimates are correct,’ Chairman Gary Davis said after the meeting.
Davis said one possible remedy for the shortfall will be taking money from the county fund of the Harrison County Community Foundation. He said they have already talked to Steve Gilliland, the Foundation’s executive director, ‘to set the wheels in motion.’
The budget has to be balanced by the end of the year, county auditor Karen Engleman said.
The shortfall was not the fault of Engleman, Davis said, because the numbers used to create the budget estimate were compiled in 2010, by the auditor’s office, but Engleman did not take over the position until January 2011.
‘The people that provided the information aren’t here anymore,’ Davis said.
Also, he said, Engleman has warned the council of the shortfall every month since she took over the position.
Davis said he hoped more tax money would continue to come in through the year to help offset the shortfall, but it never did.
Davis said the council also needs to build a cushion for the beginning of next year so it doesn’t operate the county general budget in the red before tax settlements are paid.
One of the contributing factors of the problem, Davis said, is that for years the county has approved too many additional appropriations out of the general fund which cuts down on the yearly surplus to start the following year.
‘I never dreamed the revenue estimate would be that far off,’ Davis said.
In other business Monday, Harrison County Veterans Service Officer Marion Wallace said he and his 15 volunteer drivers have decided to forfeit the $10 per run per diem the county budgeted for his department, along with $150 for driver’s training amid the council’s county general budget crisis.
‘I’d rather come and give you money than ask for it,’ Wallace said.
Davis said the council appreciated it, and the funding will be rescinded from his budget in January.
The council also heard a request of $5,000 from the Harrison County Soil & Water Conservation District for rent.
The council’s next meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.
Summers returns
Harrison County Council attorney Mike Summers returned for his first meeting Monday night since he suffered a heart attack and underwent open-heart surgery in early July.
‘I’m so happy to be back and see my friends on the council,’ he said. ‘It’s wonderful to see you all again.’
Summers thanked Davis for checking in on him before each council meeting.
‘He was like my guardian angel,’ Summers said.
Summers also thanked his replacement to the council while he was out, Jerry Ulrich, and all of the people who called him and sent him cards, letters and text messages.