How to handle Porter County auditor’s office fund? Opinions abound
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 16, 2013 10:48PM
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:30AM
VALPARAISO — Two state agencies say the Porter County Council did not properly handle changes in the auditor’s nonreverting fund at a meeting earlier this week, but Bob Poparad, D-at-large, the council’s president, said the council’s attorney gave them the go-ahead to make the money in the fund unallocated.
“Does everybody understand this was a transfer of money? Yes, we have to advertise a deappropriation. This was a transfer,” Poparad said. “It’s still in the fund. It’s just not a line item.”
Auditor Bob Wichlinski said after the meeting he would be in contact with the State Board of Accounts and the Department of Local Government Finance about the move, because there was no such thing as an unallocated nonreverting fund.
There was $606,710.35 in the fund as of Monday, the day of the meeting. It’s comprised of money collected from homestead credit violations.
The council, with a 5-2 vote, demanded greater accountability for how the fund is spent, and for Wichlinski to come before them for spending requests.
The move was prompted by Wichlinski’s recent announcement about a two-year pilot project to have county satellite offices at the University Center in Portage at a cost of about $7,000 a month, paid for out of the fund. Those plans are now on hold.
Under the state statute outlining the auditor’s nonreverting fund, the money is to be appropriated by the council and can be used for fees and costs incurred by the auditor’s office.
The council is not trying to take the fund away from Wichlinski, Poparad said. “All we wanted to do is get a handle on the money.”
Wichlinski said after the meeting the council thought they achieved their goal by way of a transfer, when they should have reduced the fund’s appropriation to a zero balance.
A spokeswoman for the DLGF said the council would have to advertise the change in the fund’s balance and hold a public hearing on the matter, the first two of five procedural steps in reducing the appropriation. “This is the procedure that we find acceptable,” said Jenny Banks, with the DLGF.
Debra Gibson, a county office supervisor with SBOA, agreed with Wichlinski about making the fund unallocated.
“That is not a term I can identify. That’s not statutory, so I really don’t know exactly what it is they’re trying to accomplish,” she said.