The Porter County Council started this year’s budget hearings on an upbeat
note for county employees during Monday’s first reading, saying they will be
looking for possibilities to dish out a few raises.
The council for the last two years has virtually frozen salaries partly due
to recession. Adding to the fiscal conservancy, the council earlier this
year sent a letter to the county departments asking for them to submit
budgets with the same figures approved for 2010.
Council president Dan Whitten, D-at large, said a little more money has come
in this year and that raises would be one of his priorities during the
budget sessions. He said his reasons for the change in tune this year is to
reward the employees who have helped clamp down on the budget and to set
salaries that would maintain the highest caliber of employees.
Whitten said the council will need to discuss how it will “prioritize” which
departments or employees deserve raises and whether the raises will be by
percentage based on employee salaries or a flat increase across the board.
Whitten said he favors percentage raises while fellow council member Rita
Stevenson, D-2nd, said she would be in favor of flat raises over percentage,
feeling it is not fair to give a larger pay increase to those with heftier
Fellow council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, said the council will have
to see how much will be left over for raises by utilizing a “countdown.” The
countdown method keeps track of the growth increase in taxes as the council
moves the budgets one-by-one and adds up available funds.
Whitten said he is also going to be looking more closely at the funds for
the sheriff’s police as one of the other thing to prioritize in the budget
hearing sessions. He said the reimbursements for holding state and federal
prisoners may be decreasing.
Porter County Auditor James Kopp read aloud the budgeted figures submitted
by each department. The grand total for the county’s General Fund -- the
fund made up of property tax dollars – is estimated at $40,651,797, up from
last year’s approved $32.9 million.
All seven council members cast their votes in approval of the first reading
of the 2011 county budget.
Even though Whitten spoke of granting raises, he plans to exercise
frugality. “We’re going to keep our belts as tight as we can for the
taxpayers,” said Whitten.
A second purpose of the meeting was to give the public a chance to comment
on the budgets. Only one individual addressed the council, former Porter
County Councilper-son Ruth Ann McWhorter, who asked if the council was this
year going to revisit the notion of cutting out venue funding from the
Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission budget.
Last year the council was asked by the tourism commission to shift the
$89,100 in monies for the county Expo Center, the Porter County Parks
Department, the Memorial Opera House, and the Porter County Old Jail Museum
and have the money be used for the PCCRVC’s grant program and Web site
The council threw out the proposal last year and told McWhorter they would
not be cutting venue funds this year. “We’re not going to do that,” Whitten
The public hearing will be closed for the remainder of the budget work.
The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday looking at budgets for the
health department, the election board, the sheriff’s police, and the County
Further dates include Sept. 27, Sept. 29, Oct. 4, Oct. 7 and a final reading
scheduled for Oct. 18.