Porter County auditor to request more funds from council
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 19, 2014 8:28PM
Updated: August 21, 2014 7:00AM
VALPARAISO — A little more than halfway through the year, Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski has spent almost the entire budget for his nonreverting fund, forcing him to go before the County Council on Tuesday to ask for more cash.
Wichlinski said he already spent what the council gave him permission to spend this year, but a lot of that was for the assessor.
“What I’m trying to do is get permission to cover bills for the remainder of the year. I don’t have a carte blanche on anything. I always have to ask the council for permission to spend money,” he said. “There’s more than enough cash. It’s not coming out of the general fund. It’s all coming out of nonreverting.”
Regardless of where the money is coming from, the request is raising concerns with the council.
“We’re in a money crunch,” Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, said. “I understand it’s not coming from the general fund, but it’s still taxpayer money.”
The request for the additional funds comes just months after Wichlinski cut five people from his staff in what he said was a cost-cutting move. He returned about $103,000 to the general fund from the staff reductions in May.
The council set the budget for the nonreverting fund, which covers contractual services for and is generated by collections from homestead credit violations, at $265,000 for this year. The balance of that budget was $22,496 on Friday, according to information provided by Wichlinski’s office.
The fund has a total cash balance of $380,786, lower than its typical $450,000 because of recent bill payments.
Wichlinski is asking for $146,055 to be released from those reserves, money that, according to a breakdown provided by his office, was spent on expenses through Assessor Jon Snyder’s office related to homestead violation collections.
Those include legal fees for homestead fraud appeals through the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals and a flyover assessment of the county, known as pictometry, which Wichlinski said also will be used by his office.
Whitten questioned the rate of spending from the fund.
“Where is he spending this money?” Whitten said. “We’re going to have to spend a little time drilling a little deeper on where the money has been spent and figure out his projections for the rest of the year.”
According to the minutes of an October budget hearing, the council cut the budget for the nonreverting fund back from $400,000, which is what its level was for 2013, in an effort to save money. Council members told Wichlinski he could come back before them if he needed more money.
Still, if the council grants Wichlinski’s request for additional money, the fund’s total budget for this year will be even higher than it was last year, at about $411,000.
Wichlinski signed off on the budget, said Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd District, and should be sticking to it by picking and choosing what he wants to do.
“There just isn’t this huge pot of money,” she said. “He’s running out of money, and the spending has got to be curtailed, just like every other department.”