Porter County commissioners, council haggle over 2014 budget
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 17, 2013 9:02PM
PHOTO PROVIDED Bob Poparad mug Statehouse
Updated: September 18, 2013 3:31PM
VALPARAISO — At times, the Porter County Council’s budget hearing Tuesday clipped along with a flurry of exchanges between the council and the Board of Commissioners, whose budget was up for review.
There was underfunding insurance by about $2 million, for $7 million, with the caveat that commissioners could always come back to the council for more money — as they are this year, since the current budget underfunded insurance by approximately that amount.
There was talk, though no action, of hiring freezes and retirement buyouts and even mention of layoffs if the budget can’t be brought into line.
There was the commissioners’ offer to reduce county economic development income tax projects by 20 percent, or almost $1 million a year, so commissioners could kick that money toward shoring up the budget.
At other times, the budget hearing moved slightly faster than drying paint, as discussion stalled on turning a part-time position into a full-time one to coordinate bulk office supply purchases for the county, with the goal of the supply savings going to help cover that salary.
Partway through the hearing, one in a series taking place between now and the Oct. 2 final reading of the budget, two things became clear.
One was that this year’s general fund budget was about $38 million, though expenses will be at least $2 million higher than that. The proposed general fund budget for the coming year is around $46 million, most likely more than the county will generate from tax money and miscellaneous revenue.
Another was that council members agreed that every expense would garner scrutiny. Their reward, once they got past the office supplies, was trimming about $2.4 million from the commissioners’ proposed budget, bringing it down to about $14.7 million.
Cuts included the fuel budget, with closer attention to expenses by the many departments that dip into it; telephone expenses and utilities, since the full budgeted amount for this year wasn’t being spent anyway; and postage.
“One down, 91 to go,” Council President Bob Poparad, D-At-large, said after the council approved the commissioners’ budget.