Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County Council to begin 2011 budget hearings Monday

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Starting Monday, Sept. 13, the Porter County Council will begin the process of approving county budgets for next year.

The public hearing and First Reading for the proposed 2011 Porter County Budget will take place Monday, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Chambers (Room 205) at the Porter County Administration Building.

Second readings will begin on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

Porter County Council members include: Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, district representatives Robert Poparad, D-1st, Rita Stevenson, D-2nd, Marylyn Johns, D-4th, and other at-large members Laura Blaney, D-at large, and Sylvia Graham, D-at large.

The council asked the county departments before the July 1 deadline to submit the same budget as was approved last year. Any changes would need to be mentioned in a letter explaining the adjustments.

Citing a troubled economy, the council closed the door last year on across-the-board raises, and it is probable they will keep the purse strings tight again this year.

Although most budgets equaled their previous amounts, a few departments still are looking to the council for raises in their salaries for full and part-time employees.

Some raises, however, are required by the state such as the county’s law enforcement agencies including the Porter County Sheriff’s Police. Steady raises are in the Sheriff’s budget bringing it from $3,271,321 last year to $3,349,340 this year.

Other state required raises pertain to the county jail and adult probation.

In another matter, the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Bureau have raised four full time employee salaries in their budget. Their total full time salaries are proposed at $231,329 compared to $215,329 last year. The salaries are not paid out of the county’s General Fund but instead from the county innkeepers tax collected from lodging facilities.

Although complying with the council’s request of handing in the same budget figures, Porter County Auditor James Kopp accompanied the budget with a letter to the council asking to raise salaries for a few of his employees. The largest raises requested go to executive deputy Alizabeth Bailey and GIS Coordinator Chuck Miller, nearly $8,000 for both.

In his letter, Kopp explains and provides salary figures from other counties in comparison with his employees. This year, Allen County paid the executive deputy $73,609 compared to Bailey’s $42,254 and $65,439 for their GIS Coordinator in comparison with Miller’s $36,734.

Kopp has also put in a request to raise the auditor’s salary from $55,024 to $60,000 annually. The raise would benefit Kopp’s successor as he was defeated in this year’s primary election.

The county’s Information Technology Services department is suggesting a change from seven full-time employees to six. ITS Director Sharon Lippens in a letter to the council said she would be able cut a systems support position and a Document Imaging Clerk and replace the two roles with a Server Administrator position.

The overall change will lower ITS’ full time salaries from $317,100 to $297,100 for 2011.

The county recorder’s office is also looking to add a second deputy with a salary of $29,652.

In other budget matters:

• Porter-Starke Services seeks $1,711,268 for 2011, up from last year’s approved $1,645,447.

• Opportunity Enterprises is asking for $700,000, the same amount that was given this year.

• The Family and Youth Services Bureau has slotted $300,000 for next year, precisely doubling the amount that was approved for 2010.

• The Northern Indiana Regional Plan Commission’s is asking the county to allocate $102,759. The money comes out of a separate County Economic Development Income Tax fund.

Election Board Restructuring

in Hands of Council

One of the biggest restructuring proposals involves two related boards, the election board and voters registration.

The election board last July decided it would submit two budgets, one with changes and one without, by a vote of 2-1.

Talks about the change surfaced at a June meeting when the board members discussed adjusting the way the county handles elections to be more in-tune with what is outlined in the state legislation.

Election board member and County Clerk Pamela Mishler Fish said the state code allows the election board to hire staff to perform its functions. She said there is no mention in the code that allows for the voters registration office to put on the elections, which essentially is how the county has operated in the past.

Fish and Republican member Patrick Lyp outvoted board president and Democratic representative J.J. Stankiewicz in submitting budgets outlining the change at the July meeting. The decision now rests with the council.

Fish said the changes are “not anything major.” She said the current two voters registration directors, Republican Sundae Kubacki and Democrat Kathy Kozuszek, would change their titles to election administrators if the change is approved.

The voters registration budget also indicates the plan for removing hourly part-time workers and have the work be done instead by two full-time deputies. The total pay budgeted in voters registration would decrease from 2010’s figure of $226,888 to $214,208.

Therefore, the election board budget would now carry salaries for Kubacki and Kozuszek, increasing its full-time salary pay from $0 to $76,152.

Casting the sole vote against the modifications, Stankiewicz said there have been no problems with Porter County’s method of running elections and feels the change may be unnecessary as the county may fall into a population range where special legislation can be appropriate. “If the changes do take place, it will just add another level of bureaucracy to it,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what the state board is going to tell us after taking a second look at the population change.”

Stankiewicz said the figures from this year’s census taken by the federal government should be released within a few months and may match the population numbers of Tippecanoe County who is one of the counties given power by the state to utilize both boards in holding elections.

 

 

Posted 9/10/2010

 

 

 

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