Council tweaks proposed 2021 budget


Not every budget request can or should be fulfilled.

Cuts must be made.

The Dubois County Council had the difficult task of trimming the county’s proposed 2021 budget on Monday. Council members heard the budget requests from county departments all day.

Late Monday afternoon, they set about the job of making decisions on requests for new items, technology upgrades, equipment replacements and increased salaries.

The process took three hours.

They went through the budget line by line, to make sure all seven council members agreed with what was written. As they went along, they stopped to discuss the new requests.

For instance, a $136,800 request from the county clerk’s office to purchase voter-verifiable paper audit trail boxes was put off since they would not be needed next year; there are no elections next year.

This fall, a pilot program is being done to test out the boxes. The machine keeps a paper copy of a voter’s ballot choices; the voter gets to see the paper before it disappears into the box. The state purchased 30 for Dubois County and MicroVote loaned the county 57 VVPAT boxes. So on General Election Day, each voting machine will be equipped with a VVPAT box; also, one voting machine at each early voting location will have a VVPAT box.

The council wanted to see the results of the pilot program first. “Why spend the money now?” Councilman Mike Kluesner asked. “Wait until this study is done.”

The council did add an additional $80,000 to help with supplies, utilities and pest control at the Dubois County Corrections building.

“I don’t like the idea of increasing spending. However, it’s hard to say that as a county, we’re interested in rehabilitation if we’re not going to help fund it,” Councilwoman Charmian Klem said.

Council members agreed that keeping community corrections running is vital.

“The whole reason we have community corrections is for the programming and the treatment,” Councilwoman Becky Beckman said. “I consider community corrections as the linchpin in making the whole criminal justice system work.”

The council also included $13,200 for school bus stop-arm cameras in the county’s local income tax economic development fund. School officials have asked the county to contribute the purchase of cameras, which officials want to install on each school bus. They also asked the county to establish a fund that would collect fines from those who are fined for not stopping for extended arms. County Prosecutor Anthony Quinn told the council that the amount of the fine is being determined; it can range between $200 and $1,000. Once that is done, the fund will be established.

The council looked at several requests for raises higher than the 1.5% the council directed all departments to include in their budgets. Some of those requests came with written explanations as part of a pilot process the council is trying to implement, to help them determine if an additional raise is warranted. Some of the requests were approved; some were denied.

All departments will be directed to follow the written process for making future requests. The council also wants each department to work with human resources to implement a review process for the employees in the department. That will likely be discussed more in the future.

Although the council directed department heads to put a 1.5% pay raise in their 2021 budgets for employees, council members debated on whether they should also receive the raise. In the end, council members Jerry Hunefeld, Craig Greulich, Mike Kluesner and Doug Uebelhor voted for the raise, while council members Charmian Klem, Becky Beckman and Sonya Haas voted against it.

At the end of the review, the council learned from Auditor Sandy Morton that an additional $1.4 million had to be moved from the general budget to meet the proposed levy set by the state. The council decided to move items into its local income tax economic development fund.

That included the Dubois County Solid Waste Management District’s budget, $231,000, building insurance, $320,000, state institutions, $115,000, sheriff’s pension fund, $325,676, pauper council for Circuit Court and court appeals, $265,000, and pauper counsel for Superior Court and court appeals, $171,346.

A public hearing for the proposed 2021 budget will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 14. Budget adoption will be considered at the council’s Oct. 26 meeting, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the commissioners/council chamber on the second floor of the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St., Jasper.

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