Porter County Council grapples with finances
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 27, 2013 10:16PM
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:47AM
VALPARAISO — Looming budget hearings colored much of Tuesday’s Porter County Council meeting, as council members considered not just the requests before them, but broader consequences for the county’s finances.
One of the upshots of the discussion was a decision to reach out to the Porter County Board of Commissioners for a joint meeting before budget hearings begin on Sept. 11, to hash out what Councilman Dan Whitten, D-At-large, termed “big ticket items,” including opening the third pod at the jail, drainage and E-911, among other matters.
“All these are things that are just ticking away at our money,” Whitten said.
After much discussion and a failed vote to table the issue, the council voted 5-2 for Sheriff David Lain to hire an additional two jail officers to assist the jail’s medical staff. He noted that an inmate being held on a low-level charge who was taken to the emergency room Saturday night was not accompanied by a jail officer for the full hospital visit, and ultimately did not return to the jail.
The hires are separate from his need for nine additional officers to open the jail’s third pod to alleviate overcrowding, he said. Including salary and benefits, each officer makes about $50,000 a year.
While the council approved a request from central communications director John Jokantas for almost $1.2 million in interest proceeds from the sale of the hospital for new equipment and software upgrades, that, too, sparked talk about the budget, and funding E-911.
Jokantas said his budget for 2014 will be $3.6 million. Half of that will come from 911 fee charges on landlines collected by the state, and $1.7 million will come from his department’s Rainy Day Fund, which will be depleted about a year from now. The remainder, for office supplies and the like, comes out of the county’s general fund.
Additionally, the council voted 6-1 for Auditor Bob Wichlinski to spend $165,000 from the auditor’s non-reverting fund for computer and software replacements and upgrades.
The equipment, he said, will be used for document scanning. He requested the money out of the non-reverting fund because the project was originally part of his Total Quality Management program, which was paid for by the fund. The fund has a balance of just over $462,000.