Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Council eyeing foundation earnings to balance 2018 budgets

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The fund holding the interest from the Porter Memorial Hospital sale proceeds before they were invested by the Porter County Government Nonprofit Charitable Foundation, which has routinely been used to bridge gaps in the County’s budgets, is expected to dry up next year.

Council Vice-President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said at Monday’s first reading for the 2018 proposed County budgets that once the hospital interest fund is fully expended, the Council will have to look at other means to keep the General Fund budget from running in the red.

“The (hospital interest fund) is a creature that is no longer going to be in existence. That fund no longer has any money coming into it. We do have our Foundation earnings which earned $6.3 million in a partial year,” Whitten said. “One thing we will have to figure out is what mechanism will we use, should we need to budget against the Foundation earnings.”

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the hospital interest fund will have about $1 million in it by the end of the year. At its healthiest, the fund years ago held over $10 million. For 2017, $2.4 million was budgeted, she said, meaning that the Council will have to shift $1.4 million somewhere else to keep those items funded.

The hospital interest fund dispensed money to help three local community nonprofit organizations -- $600,000 for Family and Youth Services Bureau, $450,000 for the Council on Aging and Community Services and $50,000 to Opportunity Enterprises. It has also been used to shore up the funds needed for the County employee health care plan.

The proposed general fund budgets for 2018 total about $44 million after the Commissioners reduced their budget by $1 million. County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said that the maximum amount she projects the Council can budget for without going in the red is roughly $39.5 million. That is $1.3 million higher than the target last year.

Whitten, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, said requests for special raises will be held off until final reading when the Council has a better picture of how much money is available. The Council will need to cut down the general fund budgets from $44 million to $39.5 million so it will not use up the Foundation’s earnings, he said.

“That is something we have to be cautious of. We are going to have to prioritize and keep our eyes on that number as we go,” Whitten told his colleagues.

A budget is being created on the Foundations earnings, Whitten mentioned, but the Commissioners have not yet adopted on second reading an ordinance to create the fund. They did vote 3-0 on a first reading in May.

The County plans to use $2.1 million annually from the earnings to pay off a bond taken out to complete capital improvement projects in the County.

Council members Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and Sylvia Graham, D-at large, agreed that the funding will need to be prioritized to sustain the General Fund budget in the long term while using as little of the interest accumulated from the Foundation as possible.

Whitten said the County has built up some capital reserves that will help balance the budget for next year and he doesn’t believe the Council is in “dire straits.”

The Council will start second readings with a review of the Sheriff, Jail and Prosecutor budgets tonight at 4:30 p.m. in Room 205 of the County Administration Building, 155 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.

Public hearing

Monday after first reading, the Council opened a public hearing for the one time it would take comments on the proposed budgets. No one from the audience spoke.

Sitting in on the meeting were Sheriff Police Business Manager Edie Hahn, Family and Youth Services Bureau CEO Lisa Jordan, County Extension Office Director Annetta Jones, County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission Executive Director Lorelei Weimer and PCCRVC Board member Richard Riley, County Coroner Chuck Harris and County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke.

Along with Jessen, absent from the meeting was Council member Andy Bozak, R-1st.



Posted 9/20/2017




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