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Council hears 2013 budget


LaGrange County Council members started a two-day meeting Monday morning to hear county budget requests for 2013.

Proposed 2013 budget amounts are $9,659,260 for general fund; $2,131,423 for the CAGIT certified shares; $328,010 for the health department and $415,787 for the parks department. These budgets will need to be cut a total of $3,475,000 to bring the budget into balance with the projected revenues.

Jeff Peters, the county financial advisor, made these comments in a telephone conference call Monday morning.

A major portion of the $3.475 million is in items that have been advertised in different funds. Taking those things into account, there is only $1,300,000 to cut.

Parts of the budget can be transferred to other budgets which have a different revenue source than general fund taxes. It is anticipated that some will go to rainy day, riverboat gambling, cumulative capital, CEDIT, and Major Moves. About $700,000 of the increase is in personal services (wage increases) and new employees.

Commissioners recommended a flat increase of $2,000 per year for full-time employees. Some departments included that amount in their budgets, others used a percentage increase of two to five percent, and some did not ask for any increase, leaving that decision to the county council.

Sheriff Terry Martin is asking for two new jail officers that will be dedicated to court house security. No decision has been made on whether or not to implement this program that has been recommended by Sheriff Martin and the U.S. Marshall for Northern Indiana.

A second person has been requested for the Geographic Information System department. Additional software and hardware was included in the 2012 IT revenue bond for this department and now there is a need for people to operate the equipment, according to Rita Lehner, GIS director.

Peters also explained to council that they have the option of imposing a Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) for public safety. A LOIT tax of .25% on LaGrange County income will raise about $815,000 annually. To raise this amount for replacement of general tax revenues, the council would also be required to levy the same amount, .25%, which would be applied to property tax relief. This could result in a savings of some $27 to $83 for a residential property with an assessed value of $100,000 and a homestead exemption.

The Legislative Services Agency has estimated that all taxing units in LaGrange County will lose $365,758 in 2013 due to property tax caps. Property taxes in Indiana are limited to no more that 1% of assessed value for residential, owner occupied homes; 2% of assessed value for rental property or second homes; and 3% of assessed value for business (including farm ground) property.