struggled to complete the 2012 budget, which will run at almost a $1 million
deficit, several members of the Porter County Council are concerned
government spending is still going in the wrong direction.
Reacting to the
results of a Needs Study on the Porter County Administration Building and
the subsequent desire of commissioner president John Evans to purchase an
additional building across the street from the current facility, councilman
Jeremy Rivas said buying a new building doesn’t seem prudent with so many
major projects looming right now.
The issue isn’t
whether the county has money for the capital portion of any project, between
a general fund surplus, Major Moves, various unallocated funds and hospital
interest money the county has around $30 million, not even considering the
$160 million in hospital sale principal money, but it’s the recurring costs
that concern the councilman.
“I think we are
going in the wrong direction,” Rivas said. “We just approved the budget and
next year we will be operating it in the red with the general fund and
eating up our surplus. We still have no permanent funding source for 911 and
(the commissioners) want us to build three new buildings. I am not saying we
don’t need a new animal shelter or a police garage or some more meeting
rooms and offices, but when can we afford all of these additional
“We can’t even
afford to operate what we have right now.”
Polarek said his stance is that the county should wait to purchase anything
until the results of the master planning process are known. His belief is
that the county has maxed out its operational budget without even
considering the $2.2 million needed yearly for E911, the costs of a bigger
animal shelter or a new sheriff’s garage.
“At this point
in time, I just don’t think it’s a very good idea to purchase something you
can’t afford to run,” Polarek said. “Our priorities should be funding 911
and the projects we are working on now. We received a list of six major
items from the planning committee last week and a new building (across the
street from the administration building) wasn’t even on it. There is not
much planning going on. They just want to keep buying things.”
For council vice
president Jim Biggs, it’s the lack planning and communication between the
commissioners and council that is frustrating.
has led to several public outbursts between various council members and the
commissioners and has been counterproductive.
He noted the
formation of a master plan subcommittee without the entire board’s knowledge
and bringing in of H.J. Umbaugh & Associates to do the master plan without
consulting the council, to go along with past instances of poor
communication, as obstacles that are keeping both bodies from functioning as
well as they should.
commissioners are right, as executive members, it is their office that
determines what needs to be created with buildings and it’s the fiscal body
that will decide how that is funded,” Biggs said. “But right now, it’s like
the left hand doesn’t understand what the right hand is doing from
week-to-week. That’s why a plan needs to be written. That’s why I don’t
appreciate certain statements like when John (Evans) said, ‘they are smart
guys, they will figure it out.’ I take offense to that. It is that type of
arrogance that breeds discontent and it has from the very beginning.
“This isn’t me
against John Evans. I can’t stress that strongly enough. This is about
asking the fiscal body asking the executive body to clearly define where it
wants to go and how we are going to get there.”
Biggs has because of the effect of the tax caps, the reassessments and the
economy is that the expansion of the operating budget is going to create a
situation where taxes need to be raised, something he said “this council
will not do,” or department heads will be forced to cut their budgets, which
is something Porter County hasn’t done since the Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy.
Rivas, Biggs and
Polarek all want to avoid both of those situations.
“Now is the not
the time to be expanding government,” Rivas said. “Now is the time to keep
things tight. We are still talking about nine percent unemployment and
things might not be getting better. I don’t see how now is the time to
“We have some
tough decisions just to continue doing what we are doing now.”