Porter County’s $38M budget comes up short
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent November 20, 2012 7:18PM
Updated: December 22, 2012 6:25AM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday got a report on the impact of the budget adopted — on a split vote — by the Porter County Council last month.
In addition to cutting $2.7 million from the commissioners’ budget, which President John Evans, R-North, said would have to come from employee benefits because there wasn’t anywhere else to take it from, the budget also cut $445,000 from the communications budget; $176,000 from the council; $173,000 from the clerk’s office; and $86,000 from the coroner, a 25 percent reduction from what that office received for this year.
The update came from Bob Clifford, a certified public accountant with the Indianapolis firm H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, hired by the county for a financial analysis.
The council voted 4-3 on the budget, rejecting a proposal that had the support of the commissioners and included $2.5 million a year for up to four years from the commissioners in county economic development income tax money to help shore up spending. Council members who passed the budget have said they wanted a budget the county could afford.
The $38 million budget as passed, Clifford said, represents a reduction of almost $3.2 million from what was requested.
Some budgets were increased, including one of the courts and the sheriff’s department, which received $661,000, enough to staff opening of the third pod at the county jail, Clifford said.
The commissioners had already cut $1 million from their budget, Clifford said, but will need an additional appropriation of $1.5 million for employee benefits, including Social Security and retirement.
“It’s unclear to me how any of the other reductions were made,” Clifford said.
According to Umbaugh’s calculations based on the budget as passed, the county will be operating under a $682,100 deficit because the budget did not take into account revenue losses from circuit breaker tax caps.
The county highway department also is facing a $493,677 deficit, because of a drop in the amount of gas tax money the county collects from the state.
The county already had made some strides in controlling health-care costs with changes in its insurance plan, Clifford said, but health costs will continue to rise all the same.
The county will need to find additional revenue sources, perhaps through increased fees, and ways to cut costs, like consolidating purchases.
“I think every department needs to figure out how to do things better, faster and less expensively,” Clifford said.