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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.