LaGrange County Council members agreed to a 3% wage increase for all elected officials and full-time employees at the end of their budget meeting Tuesday. That is if the revised numbers will allow the increase. Part-time pay, which is now $9 per hour, will also be increased 3% to $9.27.
Council set a meeting for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, to look at a revised budget after the changes authorized over the two-day meeting have been recorded. The council will meet again Monday, Oct. 8, to adopt the budget for 2013.
After looking at a potential cut of $3,475,000 from the advertised general fund budget, council moved $2.131 million to the CAGIT fund leaving a balance of $1.343 million that needed to be moved to other funds or cut from the budget.
Most all of the excess was moved to other funds including CEDIT, cumulative capital development, Rainy Day, Riverboat Gambling, and other funds that are generated by fees.
Council members repeatedly touched on the costs of the judicial system which take up about 50% of the county budget. Questions were directed to Judge Scott VanderBeck regarding the use of more video conferencing which in some cases could eliminate the need to transport prisoners either from jail or other penal locations to the courtroom. VanderBeck said that there is only so much that can be done with the video system, that numbers of events require that the defendant be present in the courtroom.
Discussion of having defendants reimburse the county for more of the costs produced little substantive results. There was also talk of how to recover the fines and fees that have been ordered by the courts. Oftentimes the defendants cannot pay those costs and the judge and prosecuting attorney is faced with the option of “looking away” or saddling the county with the costs of maintaining those persons in jail. “A great deal of judgment and common sense must be applied to some of these cases,” VanderBeck said.
Council looked at the potential for two new jail officers that could be assigned to courthouse security and cost nearly $45,000 each; a new deputy sheriff that will cost about $52,500 plus retirement; a full time person for the auditor’s office at a cost of $42,000; an assistant GIS person at a cost of $$42,000 and a secretary for the surveyor at a cost of $36,000.
The new people will be considered at the Sept. 27 meeting where it could come down to either the 3% wage increase or the new people. It is estimated that a 1% wage increase will cost some $69,000 and a 3% wage increase $207,000. Councilmen discussed the possibility of having a shared employee between the surveyor and GIS, and possibly a part-time, rather than full-time person for the auditor.
Council recommended to county commissioners that an amendment to the Plat Book Maintenance ordinance be passed that will direct the county auditor to collect $5 per legal description rather than the current fee of $5 per deed. Council also wants an ordinance that will collect $5 per legal description for use of the GIS department in maintaining the GIS system.
Council directed that secretaries for all boards be paid their regular rate of pay for three hours for board meetings.