Chesterton Tribune



Community groups funded with hospital interest in 2017 budget

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In its second night of budget hearings, the Porter County voted to accept on second readings to hospital sale interest money for non-profit community services.

Repeating the amounts given for the past two years, the Council on Thursday approved allocating $600,000 for the Family and Youth Services Bureau and $450,000 for the Council on Aging and Community Services.

The hospital interest fund allocations also include $50,000 to Opportunity Enterprises for next year on top of the $700,000 it will receive from the County’s General Fund.

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the total remainder in interest funds from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital is currently $4.1 million.

Although the fund is shrinking with each passing year -- the fund held almost $11 million at one time -- the Council is expecting more interest to come from the investment in the Foundation endowment fund set up last year.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said the Foundation is beginning to produce yields and the Council will see those at a meeting next Tuesday.

The County has funded community service groups at various levels in the past from other sources. They have relied on the County for more money as grants from the federal and state levels have dissipated.

FYSB President Lisa Jordan said “very little” has changed with federal funding but some strides have been made in finding local sources. The organization has secured grants of about $10,000 total for its alcohol and drug defense program and strengthening families program through the Porter County Substance Abuse Council.

FYSB operates currently on a budget of a little more than $2 million, made up from 19 different funding sources.

Also, the Council voted yes to second reading for Porter-Starke Services to receive $2,033,343 for 2017, about a $42,000 increase. Urbanik said the law stipulates that the money come from the County’s General Fund Budget and is allowed to increase under the state’s assessed value growth quotient, which is 3.8 percent next year.

Porter-Starke Services Director Rocco Schiralli said the number of clients has gone up 13 percent since last year, explaining that “the need for behavioral health services continues to increase.”

A lot of progress has been made too in reducing the stigma of mental health issues, he said, as more people are coming in for help.

Porter-Starke is going to be adding a new psychiatrist in October who is going to specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry, Schiralli added. The industry though has been seeing a relatively high turnover rate, he said, as older doctors are retiring and there are fewer new ones coming into the field.

Assessor’s Pictometry

The County Assessor’s office will be funding another year of imaging services from Pictometry for $100,000. Half of that is expected to come out of the General Fund while the other half is going to come out of the Reassessment budget. Assessor Jon Snyder said there has been no increase in the budget for the last six years and not changing it has helped with its outlook, which is why Urbanik advised Snyder to use part of the budget for Pictometry.

Pictometry captures images in detail so sharp they can be used to measure properties and buildings and has saved the Assessor’s Office about $125,000 by not having to send out workers, Snyder said. The system is available in the Assessor’s Office to use by other departments and municipalities but is currently not online. That would be cost an extra $5,000.

Council member Robert Poparad, D-at large, said he wishes the images could be available online for others to use and would like to find the additional funding for it.

Legal Department

The Assessor’s budget was approved on second reading at $754,000. That’s a little over $20,000 less than what was originally proposed because the Council ended up taking out legal services.

Whitten said he’s heard discussion about the County creating a legal department that would consolidate its legal budgets and eliminate the need for the line item in the Assessor budget.

Other departments

The Council passed on second reading budgets including the Porter County Airport, Weights and Measures, County Recorder, County Coroner, Veterans Office, County Treasurer, Health Department and ITS Department without much discussion, as those budgets were submitted to be the same or nearly the same as last year.

Departments asking for increase in part-time hourly line items include the Extension Office and the Auditor’s Office.

Extension Office Director Annetta Jones said she is looking to offer a higher hourly rate for someone who would assist the 4-H program with STEM projects -- science, technology, engineering and math. The rate had been reduced in a previous year’s budget, she said.

Urbanik proposed an additional $25,000 to her hourly pay for a part-time employee to assist with mapping/GIS. With the County’s new stormwater department, there is more work required in the GIS Department, Urbanik said.

Urbanik also shared with the Council that the Auditor’s non-reverting fund, which holds funds collected from homestead credit violations, will be returning over $200,000 to the County’s General Fund.

Also, the Soil and Water Department’s budget included a $20,000 added cost for water quality testing, $15,000 for supplies and $5,000 for contractual services. Supervisor Keith Gustafson said the department is now testing in the south parts of the county whenever there is a significant rain while the National Lakeshore is testing in the north.

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, suggested asking the new County Stormwater Board if they would find a way they could pay for the testing rather than the Soil & Water Department.

The Council will continue with hearings next Tuesday and Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday’s agenda includes the Highway Department, Stormwater Management and Planning Department, Animal Shelter, County Surveyor and Parks Department.



Posted 9/23/2016






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