Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County Council mulls auditor staff changes as budget reduced

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Auditor Robert Wichlinski will have to try at least one more time before the County Council gives approval to his new staff plan.

Wichlinski eliminated five positions in his office in February, which was applauded by some County officials and criticized by others.

The Council voted 5-2 previously in April against Wichlinski when he asked for changing of job titles with equalized pay for deputy auditors, which would mean salary increases for a few of his employees.

On Wednesday Wichlinski retried the request, this time maintaining the original pay structure and returning $102,653 to the general fund from the unspent salaries of the lowest positions. The 14 remaining personnel are to be shuffled around into the positions that have not been done away with.

The Council accepted part of the request 6-0, reducing Wichlinski’s budget, but they put the brakes on approving the Job Descriptions forms because of potential liability issues.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said from his knowledge the pink-slipped employees were told by Wichlinski that they were losing the jobs because the positions were being eliminated and not based on performance. But in the request for the Form 144 changes, the positions are still there and would be filled by other employees.

“You want to be careful,” Whitten said. “I’d be giving my apparent stamp of approval by voting for it and I see some issues.”

But Wichlinski said that the people in those roles now have different responsibilities and therefore the jobs are not the same. Staff have been cross-trained to provide services more efficiently, he said.

Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, who had been in the minority of Council members who supported Wichlinski’s previous restructuring requests, said he would be uncomfortable approving the one before him now since he believes is does not reflect what Wichlinski has done with his office. He asked that the job descriptions be revised to reflect those changes.

Council member Bob Poparad, D-at large, asked Wichlinski to provide him with a chart with a list of employee’s names, corresponding job titles and pay, including those who were let go, and compare it with another list of who is doing what now.

Wichlinski said the terminations were not firings and that he has wanted to make these alterations from “day 1” of his term as auditor. “We fully restructured. This is not a shell game,” he said.

He agreed to provide Poparad and the rest of the Council with the information they requested in time for their next meeting.

With that, Council Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, went ahead and made the motion for the budget reduction so the $102,653 would be moved back into the general fund. The six Council members present gave their approval. Absent from the vote was Council member Jim Polarek, R-4th.

Major Moves

In other business, the Council voted 6-0 to allocate $750,000 of the County’s Major Moves allocation from the state’s long term lease of the Toll Road for the County Highway Department. This will be the single largest allocation of Major Moves money the County has done, Hoagland said.

From that amount, Hoagland $500,000 would be used to purchase asphalt for road projects this year which was supposed to be allocated during last year’s Council budget session.

The other $250,000 will be used to build a concrete structure at the department’s Hebron station. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has mandated counties cover their road salt, Hoagland said.

Council members gave Hoagland their fond farewells at the news of his retirement effective Aug. 14.

“It’s time to let someone else have some fun,” Hoagland said.

The Council decided 6-0 on an additional of $2,500 to salaries for the Expo Center to reflect corrections for not having been properly advertised in the last budget session. The money comes from revenues the center generates and not general fund property taxes.

 

 

Posted 5/30/2014