County Council projects budget surplus by June, 2010 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 00:00
    The Washington County Council held a public hearing on the proposed county budget for 2010 on Wednesday evening, September 22; all members were present.
    Once it was determined that no one was present at the hearing who wished to offer public comment or ask questions about the proposed budget, the Council elected to discuss issues still unresolved in the proposal.  The final 2010 county budget will not be a approved by the Council until the latter part of October at which time it will be forwarded to the Indiana Department of Local Government finance for state approval.
    During the financial discussions, Council President Mark Manship asked County Auditor Sarah Bachman and Deputy County Auditor Michele Fleenor for a summary of projected income and expenses for the county through June of 2010.  After working with the numbers, many of which were, admittedly, estimates based on previous years, it was determined that the county should have funds of at least $575K over and above all anticipated expenses by mid-2010
    Several Council members noted that there are still some unanswered questions about the final cost of the truck bypass to the east of Salem and what, if any, money the county will be expected to pay as a result of the hospital bankruptcy and Medicare overpayment.  Both of those issues have price tags that could eat up the potential surplus and even leave the county with a negative balance.
    For several years, a heated debate has gone on between the County Council and the County Commissioners about the wisdom and legality of allowing county funds to have negative balances.  However, since the beginning of 2009, the two bodies of county government have shown more cooperation and a willingness to do whatever possible to keep any fund from having a negative balance.  The income and budget problems have been exacerbated by delays in receiving property tax settlements due to the changes in the assessment process mandated by statutes passed in recent years by the State Legislature.  
    Commissioner David Brown, who was present at the meeting, joined with Council members in expressing gratitude to all county department heads for their frugality and fiscal responsibility in the operations of their departments.
    In addition to discussion on the overall budget, specific attention was given to the budget submitted for Delaney Park operations.  A proposal made by Councilman Jim Nice is being considered by the Council that would remove the park from the property tax rate and shift it into the Commissioners budget at an amount of $90K for 2001.  Park Manager Chris Strange has been adamant at recent Council meetings that his budget gets penalized by the state when the park generates more revenue.  Strange contends that when the state sees park revenues go up it cuts the tax rate thus never allowing the park to get ahead on maintenance projects.  Strange said that he believes the proposal made by Nice is a positive step in solving the problem.  
    Delaney Park has continued to loose money for several years.  This new funding strategy seems to have universal support as a method to help resolve the issues plaguing the park's budget.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 13:05