The Porter County
Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve a budget for the Waste Reduction and
Recycling District (WRRD) that reflected a $5 fee increase to county
property owners and businesses.
Last week, the
Board of Directors for the WRRD voted in favor of raising the yearly fee
from $15 to $20, which would bring in an additional $408,000. This will be
the first year that businesses will pay the fee.
Executive Director Therese Davis told the Council that the fee will go
forward as decided by her board and does not require a vote from the Council
to be enacted. However, the Council still has a say over how the money will
be budgeted next year.
The fee increase,
Davis said, is to meet a higher demand by the public for services, such as
hosting twice as many hazardous waste collection events so there is a
shorter time for participants to stand in line. The new revenue will be
utilized to purchase a new tub grinder for all communities in Porter County
to use to dispose of brush. That would bring savings for those communities,
reducing the need to hire outside help to do the grinding, she said.
operator will also be hired to transport the grinder, Davis added. The
district will be responsible for paying regular maintenance on the grinder,
which will be covered by the extra revenue, Davis said, as well as a new
pole shed to be built to hold equipment at about $500,000.
Dissenting on the
vote to accept the WRRD’s 2015 budget at $1,318,724, a $333,000 increase
over the approved 2014 budget, was Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large,
who said she did not want to see a tax hike added to the potential of a
monthly stormwater fee on county property owners.
Absent from the
vote were Council members Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and Robert Poparad, D-at
Dan Whitten, D-at large, said after hearing the questions by his colleagues,
if the Council had been the body to have final say on the fee increase, “it
probably wouldn’t have” gone through.
The WRRD gets its
operating money from the fee and is not part of the County’s General Fund,
as were most of budgets in Tuesday’s second readings.
In another matter,
Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st, was the sole “no” vote on the approval of
the proposed budget for the Expo Center.
The Center operates
on its own income, but the proposed total figure of $489,000 was something
Whitten also questioned, since the current revenue estimate is about
$400,000 for this year.
“What changes are
you going to make to generate revenue?” Whitten asked Expo office manager
Debbie Garner, who was joined by County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney,
The Expo Center
will have a beefier marketing plan for 2015, making more use of social
media, Garner said. Blaney said more revenue will flow in over the next few
months as the event schedule fills up toward the holidays.
Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, said the Expo Center stays “busier than
busy” using its slow times as opportunities to promote future events.
Biggs said his
concern was having a full-time assistant manager hired when the center had
been operating without a full-time director for a large part of last year.
The center also employs a full-time administrative assistant.
Blaney said having
those three full-time employees is vital for handling the tasks needed to
generate the revenue to sustain the budget.
Biggs also drew
attention to the fact that this year employees at the center did not notice
that a maintenance worker shared with the sheriff’s department was being
Whitten said there
“have been errors” but the issue of the overpaid worker has been resolved
and the money has been refunded.
A majority of the
Council voted yes on the budget for the Expo at $450,000, and directors
could come back for an appropriation if their revenue exceeds that figure.
budgets for the Plan Commission and the County Surveyor were approved at
figures less than the current year.
The Plan Commission
is losing a planner and a permit input position next year. The Building
Inspector will retire in January and the annual salary will be reduced from
$41,000 to $38,000.
The Council voted
5-0 to accept a budget of $657,264, which is comparatively less than the
amount approved for last year, $731,551.
Kristy Marasco said the budget is “getting tighter” as fewer building
permits are being issued.
Surveyor’s office trimmed their general fund budget from $197,200 to
$177,412, to fulfill the Council’s request to trim budgets by 10 percent.
“It’s got to be
done for the whole county,” said County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke.