By MATT KOESTERS
As Clark County Council President Barbara Hollis read the amount of the county’s 2013 budget at the council’s Monday meeting, she was suddenly stopped mid-announcement by a fit of coughing.
“It’s a number to get choked up on,” quipped Councilman Brian Lenfert, who was recognized by Hollis as the budget’s architect.
“Thank you to Brian,” Hollis said. “He has spent countless hours on this.”
The council unanimously adopted a 2013 budget that counts on about $16.5 million in the county’s general fund, down from $21.7 million requested by department heads and the county commissioners.
At previous meetings, Lenfert had estimated that the 2013 budget would have to be pared down to about $14 million, but said there are a lot of “unknowns” that have yet to be discovered, including miscellaneous revenues, certified shares and property-tax-replacement credits, along with unspent dollars appropriated to departments that will revert back to the general fund.
Lenfert said that in years past, the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, or DLGF, has approved budgets higher than what independent consultants predicted, but isn’t sure that will be the case this year.
“This budget is probably going to be higher than what the budget order [from the DLGF] comes in at in the spring,” Lenfert said. “But we’ll wait and see what that is and adjust the budget accordingly at that time.”
The council will pass a salary ordinance by Dec. 1, which could see additional cuts to the overall budget. The salary ordinance defines the number of county employees and the rate of pay for each employee, which would impact the budget of each department if there is a variance between a department’s personal-services line item and the ordinance, Lenfert explained.
“The budget can be approved at this [meeting], but if we don’t approve salaries, [department heads] can’t spend all of it,” he said.
Perhaps the largest denied request came from the county’s board of elections, which submitted a request for $812,999. Only $54,625 was approved. Lenfert said the budget had been submitted as though there would be an election next year, but special elections are rare in Indiana. The request also called for the purchase of $503,000 in new equipment.
“We just can’t afford that right now,” Lenfert said. “We backed [the department’s budget] back down to the minimum that [it] needs to operate the election department as if there was no election to take place.”
Instead of putting health insurance as a line item in each department as requested by the Clark County Commissioners, the commissioners’ budget includes $1.2 million for health insurance for all county employees paid out of the general fund, with another $800,000 being paid out of EDIT funds.
SHERIFF’S REQUESTS APPROVED
The county council unanimously approved $120,000 in additional appropriations requested out of local-option income tax funds by Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden.
The two requests were for $60,000 apiece for supplies and meals for inmates held at the Clark County Jail.
Rodden said the jail held 515 inmates on Monday, beyond the maximum capacity. He said only a small amount of the inmates were being held on behalf of Scott County or the Indiana Department of Corrections. Both units have housing deals with Clark County for the holding of inmates.
Rodden said based on history, he expected the overall number of inmates held at the jail to go down as the temperatures outside go down.
The council also approved another $64,000 in appropriations from the general fund requested by Rodden for utilities, meals and supplies, all paid from funds received from Scott County for housing inmates.