Porter County development funds could shore up jail budget
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent September 3, 2013 5:02PM
Updated: October 5, 2013 6:25AM
VALPARAISO — Porter County Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said Tuesday that commissioners are willing to offer up a little over $2 million in unallocated income tax revenue to fund medical services at the jail and E-911 for the 2014 budget year.
At Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting, Evans said he would present the offer, which would use County Economic Development Income Tax funds, as the budget process gets under way. The Porter County Council starts budget hearings Sept. 11; council members have said they want to meet with commissioners before the process begins to discuss funding high-dollar items, including E-911.
“We know we are not going to have enough money,” Evans said, noting that the county’s tax levy is going to be less than it was last year.
Last year, Evans and three members of the county council crafted a budget proposal offering $2.5 million in unallocated county economic development funds to lessen reliance on property taxes. The offer was good annually for up to four years, but was withdrawn when the council passed a slimmed-down, $38 million budget instead.
At the time, Evans said that budget did not provide enough funding for county healthcare costs. Tuesday, he said commissioners would need to approach the council for an additional appropriation of $2 million for healthcare because there isn’t enough money to fund insurance for the rest of the year.
“The council needs to get on board with the fact that insurance costs $9 million a year, not $5 million,” Evans said.
In other business, commissioners granted approval for a program that could put 30 Porter County Jail inmates in community corrections while they await trial, pending council approval of $147,690 in unallocated CEDIT funds.
The program, offered by Porter County PACT, is expected to be part of a multi-faceted approach to help alleviate overcrowding at the jail. Officials said it could save the county $290,310 annually over the cost of keeping 30 inmates in the jail for one year.
“We’re ready to help you with the jail population as soon as you give us the go-ahead,” said Superior Court Judge Mary Harper.
The Jail Population Review program would include daily checks of inmates to see who might be eligible; electronic monitoring for those released under the program; behavior modification and service referrals; and jail services.