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.”
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.
Vicki Urbanik reported that all but one department budget has gotten state
approval as the Council adopted it. On the chopping block: the Highway
one of the Highway Department’s funds will increase, but another will
decrease by over $700,000 for a cut of about $320,000.
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.”
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.
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.