Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County Council favors funding social service agencies

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Council Thursday agreed unanimously to maintain funding for Opportunity Enterprises, Porter-Starke Services and the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the funding amounts they requested.

As the budget currently stands, the organizations will be funded with a mix of money from the County’s General Fund and the interest generated from the sale proceeds of the former county hospital.

Opportunity Enterprises was approved at $700,000 in the general fund and could receive an extra $50,000 out of hospital interest by the time the 2015 budgets are finalized.

Porter-Starke was approved at $1.9 million in the General Fund which is a 2.7 increase over the current year because of the state’s growth quotient for the levy.

Same as last year, the Council agreed to dip into hospital interest by allocating $600,000 to the Family and Youth Services Bureau.

“These are services we’ve agreed are important for the community that fits the bill of hospital interest. That’s why we did it,” said Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd.

Council member Karen Conover, R-3rd, asked if the hospital interest fund is in potential danger of being used up as the Council has approved spending more than what the fund is able to generate.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said the County will be able to generate more interest funds once the community endowment foundation is created, which he hopes will be next year.

Federal cuts hit PCACS

Meanwhile, Porter County Aging and Community Services (PCACS), which provides bus transportation for senior and disabled citizens throughout the county, requested an increase of $80,000 over 2014’s budget for a total of $450,000 next year.

PCACS Executive Director Bruce Lindner said the Public Mass Transportation Fund granted by the federal government cut their allocation by $118,000 for next year.

Lindner said adjustments have been made this year to deal with cuts. PCACS will give about 18,000 rides this year compared to 25,000 a year ago. The service is using 31 busses instead of 35, he said.

Because PCACS is giving fewer rides and other bus lines are seeing a boost in ridership, Lindner said the grant was slashed. He compared the situation to a “pie” that had seven players taking money out of it. Now there are nine, he said.

Rivas and Council member Robert Poparad, D-at large, suggested Lindner talk with other bus lines in the area on how services could be improved.

The question here, Poparad said, is “should economics force rethinking.”

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, said this is the third year in a row the state or federal government has cut funding.

“I think you have a wonderful program but this is not sustainable,” he said.

The Council preliminarily approved the request at $450,000 out of hospital interest but Whitten said they should revisit the item at the end of the budget hearings.

Office supplies

In other business, Council members approved the 2015 budget for the Soil and Water department without a $4,000 increase to its office supplies line item.

They hope to put the line item into the County Commissioners’ budget. The Commissioners this year implemented centralized purchasing for office supplies for all County departments as a means to save money.

Hearing that other departments have had difficulty in getting items they requested, the Council will talk with the Commissioners next Tuesday about having a written policy for office supplies.

Budget balance

At the end of Thursday, only minor budget decreases were made by the Council in the Soil and Water and Auditor budgets.

If the Council wishes to pass the budget with the General Fund at $36.5 million, it still needs to slash $4.9 million, said the Council’s budget and finance specialist Vicki Urbanik.

 

 

Posted 9/19/2014

 
 
 
 

 

 

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