Thursday night’s budget hearing started with the realization that the Porter
County Council has tentatively increased the 2012 budget by more than $3.6
million dollars over the 2011 figure.
Because of that fact, with the exception of the ensuing animal shelter
discussion, most of what followed that Thursday night was a mere formality.
When the council decided during its first budget hearing almost a month ago
to approve all department budgets without raises, Thursday night was a
target to decide whether those raises would be granted.
Then, with all of the county’s department heads in attendance and some
having already spoken before the board, the council announced that decision
as well as other important budget conclusions would be made Monday night
after a weekend of meetings and conversations between board members to
decide how to trim that budget figure.
The problem, according to council president Dan Whitten, is that allocating
$3.6 million more than last year’s budget would be irresponsible. His fear
is that the county’s growth won’t match the expenditures and surplus money
would have to be used to balance the yearly budget. Eventually that money
would run out, he said.
Whitten said that every budget that has been approved, including several
heard Thursday, will be revisited to see if items need to be cut or reduced.
Using the standard formula for determining the budget growth for the
following year, the council would be able to raise the budget just more than
$1 million without having to tap into hospital, CEDIT funds or other funds
than the general.
Using those figures, more than $2 million would have to be cut from already
approved budgets to avoid a shortfall.
However, many council members said the situation isn’t as dire as it
appears. The next step in finishing the budget is determining how much of
the money allocated for next year’s budget is for capital expenses and how
much will be reoccurring costs.
Board member Jeremy Rivas said he and other board members are willing to tap
into the surplus money, which is a combination of hospital interest money,
some general fund money as well as CCD, CEDIT and other various funds, for
“I think this just shows how badly we needed the strategic plan months ago,”
councilman Jim Biggs said. “But we will be fine. This was a learning
experience for all of us.”
Biggs said he doesn’t believe Porter County is in a bad situation because
the plan the council and commissioners have begun work on should be able to
secure funding from the surplus and the struggles in forming this year’s
budget won’t happen every year. Besides trying to hit a moving target
because of the lack of a solid plan, Biggs said a combination of a weak
economy, the tax caps and the reassessment hits have made this year tougher
Whitten agreed with Biggs’ assessment.
“We will be fine,” Whitten said. “We all just need to realize we do have
The board announced it will hold its final budget hearing at 5:30 on Monday
at the Porter County Administration Building. The board will decide on cuts,
county pay raises, hear the claims by department heads and have the final
reading of the budget all on Monday night.
“I will buy the pizza,” Whitten said.