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County council gets first look at 2014 budget

Members of the LaGrange County Council took a first look at budgets presented for 2014 Monday morning. Total of all budgets is $21,346,918.

The county general fund requests total $7.376 million with $4.777 million (65 percent) being in the personal services column. The number that sticks out the most is the sheriff’s department and jail at $2,981,855. Of that amount, $2.173 million is for personal services.

Other high dollar departments in the general fund include Information Technology at $583,877 and the LaGrange County Commissioners budget at $527,480.

In addition to the general fund, there are some 73 other budgets that are a responsibility of the county council. When all budgets are looked at as a whole, $9,695,096 of the total of all county budgets is dedicated to personal services. Personal services cover wages and fringe benefits including health insurance, PERF (public employee retirement fund), county share of FICA, Medicare and unemployment tax. Personal services comprise 45 percent of the total $21.347 million budget requests.

When looking at the total budget, some $5.967 million is dedicated to the criminal justice system (28 percent). This includes the sheriff’s department, county jail, courts, circuit and superior court probation departments, clerk’s office and defined benefit pension program for merit employees at the sheriff’s department ($328,439).

LaGrange County Sheriff Terry Martin included wages for two new jail officers in his budget. Martin explained that he would assign two officers to man a secured entry to the county courthouse. Martin also included a line item for a code enforcement officer at $34,193.

Council members also learned that Jason Boggs, who had been the code enforcement officer, resigned that position and is now working for the county building department as an inspector. Inspector Richard Chandler retired July 31.

Martin noted that he will not be looking for a person to fill the code enforcement officer position until after the county council has decided on the number of hours a new person will work and the rate of pay that will be offered.

Highway budget request is some $3,953,149 plus $300,000 in local road and street funds. Highway employee wages and benefits will take some $1.526 million of the highway budget.

County Assessor Pat Monroe asked that one of her current deputies be given the title and pay of a chief deputy. “She has been with the assessor’s office nearly five years and does everything in the office now,” she said.

 

 

Monroe also explained that the county (and the state of Indiana) has gone to a cyclical review of property for reassessment purposes. It is expected the process in LaGrange County will start during the summer of 2014. Monroe asked for a line item of $100,000 toward what she described as a contract that will cost between $230,000 and $265,000. The county has a balance of $432,847 in the reassessment fund as of July 31, 2013. Expected expenditures through the end of the year are $113,322. This will leave a sufficient balance at the end of the year to pay reassessment costs in 2014.

Auditor Kay Myers explained that reassessment used to be a separate tax rate and levy controlled by the Department of Local Government Finance. However, the taxes levied for reassessment after a new law took effect July 1 of this year will remain an obligation of the county but will come from the county general fund tax levy.

County council will continue to hear budget requests from various elected officials and department heads through Tuesday morning. No determinations will be made until after the county’s financial advisor, Jeff Peters, is able to gather up all the information needed to determine the county revenue stream for the next year.

After determining the revenue that will be available next year, a budget will be set that is within the confines of the money that will be raised.