At the climax of
this year’s Porter County budgeting sessions, the County Council voted 7-0
to adopt all 2017 budgets, including the General Fund with a price tag of
$38,209,524.17, reaching its $38.2 million target.
Before the vote,
the council spent an hour or so mulling special raise requests, which
included those for the officers of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police,
prompting a few emotional statements from council members.
Conover, R-3rd, said the officers have done an honorable job serving and
protecting the residents of Porter County. “You always have our back and
it’s nice to give something back,” she told the roughly two dozen PCSP
officers in the audience.
“We stand with you
guys,” said Member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, adding that increasing the police
salaries was a clear decision. “Anything you need, we try to help.”
Reynolds proposed raises at second readings of his department’s budget for
himself and 63 officers. Thirty 1st class patrolman salaries will be bumped
to $53,751, a raise of $5,750. Ten sergeants will receive $3,000 raises. The
chief deputy would see a $7,500 raise, making his salary $70,696.
will be adjusted from $139,112 to $143,424.
The purpose is to
make salaries more comparable with those of other departments, such as the
Valparaiso and Portage PDs, while the PCSP has more square miles to patrol,
Member Jim Biggs,
R-1st, said the council has prioritized its spending and has invested the
proceeds from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital into a charitable
endowment foundation which will allow it to support public safety. “You’ve
got a tough job and we know that,” he said.
Firing back at
criticisms that county officials took too long to decide what to do with the
hospital proceeds, President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said officials looked
closely at how the county could earn its biggest return on investment. The
Foundation has in its second quarter has already reached a four percent
return. “We are living in a county of exciting things to come. The sky’s the
limit,” Whitten said, saying Porter County is the most solvent in the state.
the council for their actions, especially now when police around the country
are facing tough times. “Everybody is appreciative of you working together
and fixing something that wasn’t equitable. We saw tonight you were trying
to be fair.”
Robert Poparad, D-at large, laconically said “thank you” as he motioned to
approve the budgets including the raises.
The council on
Monday found room in the budget for raises after taking out $1 million for
insurance and another $1 million for the Sheriff’s Pension Fund. The council
did, however, restore $300,000 of the Sheriff’s Pension in the General Fund
and will decide later next year how to fund the rest. The fund was supported
this year by special income tax distributions from the state.
who are not elected officials, will get a $1,500 raise except for those who
were granted special raises. Approved Thursday were all the court requests
of $4,000 and $5,645 to bring staff up to parity, a $2,000 raise for the
office manager and the 4-H operations manager in the Extension Office, and a
$2,000 raise for a nurse and assistant director at the Juvenile Services
An $8,000 raise was
not given to Facilities Director Matt Stechly since it would have put is pay
higher than three new facility employees who were hired at between $52,000
to $60,000. All four will receive the $1,500 raise.
In all, six new
positions were created in the General Fund and four were moved into the
general fund from other budgets, County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said.
Council bumped salaries for Opera House Director Scot MacDonald and Museum
Director Kevin Pazour, from $42,000 and $41,000 respectively to $48,000, to
make them exempt from receiving overtime under the new Federal Labor
Standards Act decision to increase the exempt salary threshold to $47,476.
The new regulation is to take effect on Dec. 1.
Both directors have
usually worked additional hours. MacDonald said his tasks usually amount to
50 or more hours a week.
The council also
voted to move the Voters Registration office directors Sundae Schoon and
Kathy Kozuszek from $44,326 to $49,000 to make the threshold. The two have
taken overtime in the past elections and their total compensation in years
past has been over $48,000 at times.
Rivas made the
motion, saying “it probably makes sense” keeping the directors exempt. Biggs
was somewhat apprehensive saying the council had granted the two significant
raises last year when the office restructured working with fewer full-time
Before the votes on
raising the salaries above the threshold, Whitten said that many states
around the country have motioned for a preliminary injunction to delay the
threshold, which had given the council the possibility of holding off to see
if that motion would go through.
Tourism Venue Fund
In other business,
the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitors Commission Board
President Mitch Peters came to talk to the council about the distribution of
the $150,000 slated to be given to the four county venues for 2017.
Both he and the
council agreed to keep the distribution the same as it was for 2016 with the
Expo Center, Memorial Opera House, and the Porter County Museum getting
$38,120 and the County Parks Department getting $35,640.
started with a special regular meeting of the County Council where it
approved $1.3 million in special LOIT funds, $1.1 million in Major Moves
funds, $1.1 million in rainy day restricted Major Moves funds, and $2.1
million in local road and bridge matching grant fund to maximize local
dollars for the State Community Cross grant for road projects.
The County Highway
Department will pave over 25 miles in roads this year as the county uses the
grant program. Whitten boasted that the county still has Major Moves funds
in its coffers for these projects while the other counties have burned
“Let’s go! Let’s
start paving,” Poparad said.