Members of the LaGrange Council listened to budget requests for two days this week. Some questions were asked and a few opinions offered.
But the bottom line is that there were likely far more requests than there will be money to go around. LaGrange County has an annual budget of some $22 million, which is less than the 2005 budget. And there have been no pay raises for county employees for the last five years.
County commissioners have recommended a flat increase of $2,000 for all full-time employees and office holders. Some members of the council have indicated they feel a wage increase of some sort is needed. A large percentage of the county budget is dedicated to personal services (wages) and the costs associated with wages. A figure of $7,440 is being used for health insurance costs in the 2013 budget.
The first step in determining the tax base for 2013, which was due from the county assessor to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) by May 1, was submitted last week and has now been approved. After these values are rolled to the county auditor (which should occur soon) the auditor will apply all exemptions and again submit values to DLGF for approval. After this report is approved, it will be possible to get a good estimate on the amount of property tax dollars that will be available for the 2013 budgets.
County Sheriff Terry Martin has asked for two additional jailers who will be assigned to security at the courthouse and Geographic Information System (GIS) has asked for an additional person. Martin noted in his presentation there are about 75 inmates at the jail. The number of Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmates has decreased significantly over the last year and likewise the amount of reimbursement from the state for housing prisoners has gone down. At one time the county was receiving over $1 million annually for housing state inmates.
If the commissioner recommendation for a wage increase of $2,000 is allowed, there will be a need to find a place to either raise an additional $400,000 (200 people times $2,000) or a way to cut that amount of dollars in expenses or to find an innovative way to extract the additional money from existing funds.
County Auditor Kay Myers was instructed by council members to remove about $2.1 million from the general fund budget and place the amounts into other funds such as Rainy Day, Riverboat Gambling, Cumulative Capital Development, and the new CAGIT fund. Council will then look at the newly arranged budget at its Sept. 10 and 11 meetings.
There is a possibility that assessed values will have been determined by that time, which will make it possible for County Financial Advisor Jeff Peters to determine the potential 2013 revenue for the county.