Chesterton Tribune



Council to review election funding after new County Clerk takes office

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The County Council discussed the 2019 allocations for the Voter Registration office, among other topics, at its meeting last night.

Council member Dan Whitten, D-At-large, said his conversations with Clerk-elect Jessica Bailey indicate that the Council will have to consider changing the way Voter Registration is funded and how its employees are salaried in 2019.

“In my most recent conversation with the Clerk-elect her thoughts were that she has been having lots of meetings and dealing with the audit we’re going through, but that it’s her long-term intention to have her office handle both elections and voter registration,” Whitten said. “However, with the daunting task she’s facing with the short turnaround for the election in May, her short term thought is she would like for us to move forward with the assumption that she will be running the elections and will not take on voter registration in the coming election.”

Whitten said Bailey has indicated that she plans to “double-back and tackle Voter Registration” after the coming election is over. He added that his conversations with the Commissioners have indicated that the Board of Commissioners may dissolve the Voter Registration office--they have not considered it yet since they didn’t know the new Clerk’s intentions. Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, confirmed such from the audience.

Whitten said he would like Bailey to present the Council with a plan for budgeting and staffing in the next election, then he would like to adjust the budget for Voter Registration, reducing salaries for the Democrat and Republican directors and potentially moving their assistants under the Clerk.

“There’s not very many voter registration offices left in the state of Indiana,” Whitten said. “I think we need to evaluate the people that are left in voter registration doing just that job.”

Council Vice-president Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, suggested that such a presentation should come before the Council “right away,” as early as Jan. 15.

Whitten also noted that Bailey has been researching vendors for new election equipment, and Council members Jeff Larson, R-At-Large, and Sylvia Graham, D-At-large, commended her for stepping in before her term officially starts Jan. 1.

Budget Report/Discussion

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik reported that all but one department budget has gotten state approval as the Council adopted it. On the chopping block: the Highway Department.

Urbanik reported one of the Highway Department’s funds will increase, but another will decrease by over $700,000 for a cut of about $320,000.

Highway Superintendent Rich Sexton said the large Community Crossing Grant the County was just awarded will soften the blow a lot, and the cut doesn’t change his plans for purchasing equipment to do in-house chip and seal on County roads. One drawback, Sexton said, is that the price of salt has increased by $12 a ton.

Also, due to a change in the state funding formula for mental health funding, Porter-Starke Services is entitled to about $101,000 more than the County allocated to them. Urbanik said either the general fund must be cut, or an additional appropriation made after the first of the year. “We don’t have an option, this is what the state has determined Porter-Starke should get.”

Porter-Starke’s funding is largely driven by property taxes, but they will be okay through June if state approval for an additional appropriation lags because the County pays them twice per year, Urbanik said.

Larson took a moment to ask Biggs if the Commissioners have decided how to handle Mike Brickner’s resignation from his position as Porter County’s Public Safety Director. Biggs says the Commissioners haven’t had time to discuss the matter. Brickner submitted his resignation Monday.

Whitten advised Biggs to discuss the matter with the Council before deciding. Brickner’s exit leaves $97,344 in the general fund, Larson said, and Rivas suggested that if the directors of County 911 and the Emergency Management Agency have a handle on things, that money could be used elsewhere, such as giving dispatchers a raise.



Posted 12/20/2018




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