Council members are setting their sights already on budget work for 2015 by
notifying government department heads to scale their general fund budgets
back by 10 percent of their current budgets.
Dan Whitten, D-at large will be sending the letter telling that the cuts
will need to be presented to the Council by its next meeting on June 24 and
they cannot decide the cuts on their own, members of the Council will work
The general fund
budget started the year already in a shortfall by about $5 million after the
state certified the levy and an even bigger gap is expected for next year.
“This year’s budget
hearings are going to be rougher than anything we’ve ever experienced (in
the past),” Whitten said. “We’re not talking about a three-year plan here.
We’re talking about just getting through 2015.”
Even with the
interest money on funds from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital, the
amount generated is not enough to make up for the plummeting property tax
revenues, Whitten said. “The well is drying up.”
will be encouraged to work with their Council liaisons so they can have some
of the issues worked out before budget hearings begin, usually in the early
Council members did
not say anything specific they would recommend departments cut. Some have
already made cuts, such as the County Auditor’s office which has reduced its
One of the actions
Whitten suggested was to meet with the County Commissioners, since many of
the general fund budgets fall under their purview. He said he’s read in
recent news articles that the Commissioners are feeling pinched on funds and
would like to know their situation.
also have control of the CEDIT fund projects which utilize County income tax
dollars. Whitten said that he believes all of CEDIT “needs to be on the
table” in trying to keep county budgets operating in the black which means
there will need to be prioritization.
The Council formed
a group consisting of Whitten, Council Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd,
and Sylvia Graham, D-at large, charged with working in step with the
Commissioners on their 2015 budgets.
One of the biggest
gaps is funding for the County’s employee health plan, which is currently
underfunded. Council member Robert Poparad, D-at large, said he would be
interested in discussing with the Commissioners changes that could be made
to mitigate costs.
Robert Wichlinski said departments can enter their budgets into the state’s
Gateway system where the Council or anyone could view it. The system
collects and provides information about how tax dollars are budgeted. County
auditor offices are also required to submit all budgets to the Gateway
system by the end of the year.
information is online, the Council’s budget specialist Vicki Urbanik said in
her dealings with the county’s departments some say they do not know what
their budget is.
like Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, were baffled as to how the departments might not
know their own budgets since they work within them on a daily basis.
Wichlinski said he
gives departments copies of their budget for the year and if they need
another copy they can come see him.
advised the Council that departments might try to rely on non-general fund
sources in reducing those tied to the general fund. Poparad said that should
not be ignored as those funds are not unlimited.