Council members gathered during a budget meeting on Thursday night and
unanimously approved on final reading the adoption of the 2021 budget after
a few minor changes, raises, and the creation of a new salaried position.
That position, a deputy director of the Information Technology Department
for Porter County, will help to ensure that infrastructure is secure.
At the request of
Council President Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, IT Director Eric Serrano and Porter
County Commissioner Laura Blaney appeared before council members to answer
questions about the need for additional staff for security. Rivas stated,
“We’ve watched Lake and LaPorte Counties get hacked around us and with COVID,
more people are working from home on technology, so it’s time to take a look
at this.” Serrano reported that the IT department has never had a deputy
director, but there is a need for more security awareness and vulnerability
management. He estimated the salary for a deputy director position to be
$80,000 and said he had created a job description and would have a plan for
the position to the council in the coming months. Council member Bob Poparad,
D-1st, made the motion to add the salary for the new deputy director in the
2021 budget and added, “I don’t like computers, but the security part is
becoming important.” Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, concurred,
“It’s important to have security. I really think they need an assistant in
Rivas also reported
that he asked Porter County Auditor Vicki Urbanik to include raises in the
2021 budget for all elected officials except for county council members and
commissioners. Council member Dan Whitten, D-at large, voiced his support
before the remaining council members agreed, apart from Jeff Larson who was
delayed and missed the vote. The raises, said Rivas, will be a percentage of
their salaries and are well deserved by staff who have put in an
extraordinary number of extra hours.
With the changes,
the final approved budget totals include the general fund of $42,454,565
which is an increase of $697,875 over last year’s budget; health fund of
$2,097,797, an increase of $40,501 from last year; highway fund is
$5,735,618; a decrease of $47,312 from last year; reassessment fund is
$548,216, an increase of $9,402; cumulative bridge fund is $4,311,899, an
increase of $613,272; and CCD fund is $2,240, 809 which is the same amount
as last year.
The 2021 budget
will now go to all department heads for final proof and will be voted upon
for final approval at the Porter County Council meeting on November 24.
Whitten spoke to address the Porter County Convention, Recreation and
Visitor’s Commission’s support for County-owned venues. He said that
constituents have asked him, “Why did you let tourism stop paying money for
the venues,” to which he responded, “We left money in tourism and we expect
it to be paid for the venues. They said they didn’t know if they can do so.
This board needs to keep an eye on that and see if there are revenues, and I
hope this clarifies that.” Poparad asked for revenue reports in the future
since those had not been provided to the council in recent memory. Whitten
responded, “There’s no doubt they’ve been hit hard, like everyone has, but
we want to make sure they give what is available, or whatever they can.”