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Casino revenue snags leave county fund with deficit

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County employees can still hope for their biannual longevity pay despite snags in the county share of casino revenues.

The Porter County Council learned at its meeting this week that, according to budget specialist Vicki Urbanik, there is a negative balance of $111,243 in the Riverboat Fund after starting $23,000 in the black at the first of the year. The fund was used to pay employee’s PERF and FICA costs.

Nonetheless, $179,250 was put before the Council as the first installment of the bonus longevity pay.

“It’s drying up,” said Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large.

Along with longevity, most of the fund is used to reimburse the County and municipalities for their undercover drug task forces.

There is a $250,000 fund that the drug task force draws from and so far $135,000 has been spent this year, Urbanik said.

The casino fund should be replenished with a little more than $400,000, Urbanik said, when the County gets its distribution, expected in August.

The Council ended up voting 7-0 on a motion made by Council member Jim Polarek, R-4th, to approve the full request for longevity pay pending receipt of distribution from the state.

Whitten said that there will not be enough for the second scheduled payout of longevity from the casino revenue at the end of the year with the drug task force and the prosecutor’s office both using the money.

“We don’t have enough money in this account to do those two things, so we’ll have to discuss how we want to do this,” he said.

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, questioned if this was going to be a decision of whether to fund longevity or drug enforcement.

Whitten said that decision would come down to the second draw of longevity.

For that payout, Whitten said the Council should consult the Board of Commissioners to see if there is enough money in one of the county economic development income tax funds for the employees’ bonus pay.

According to the pay scale, longevity payments start after a full-time county employee has been with the county for three years of service at which time $225 is added to their salary.

The next raise happens after the employee has reached five years with an addition of $375 and the scale continues to rise in five year increments -- $750 after 10 years, $1,125 for 15 years, $1,500 for 20 years, $1,875 for 25 years, and maxes out at thirty years with $2,250.

The County for the past ten years has issued longevity pay using its share of casino revenues and collections have slowed considerably during the past four or five years.

At one time the County was receiving more than $600,000, Urbanik said.

Shortfalls in the fund started last year and the Council then looked to CEDIT funds fill the gap.

 

Posted 6/27/2014