Most county departments seek increases in budgets

By ALEXANDRA SONDEEN
Herald Staff Writer

While most departments are looking for increases in their budgets, the county highway department is asking for less in 2011.

The first budget proposals for 2011 were heard by the Dubois County Commissioners on Tuesday as seven county departments and four organizations included in the commissioners budget, like Older Americans and Tri-Cap’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, presented their estimated needs.

The county council will hear 25 proposed budgets during hearings next month.

The highways department’s proposed budget — which incorporates the highway, local street, bridge, solid waste collection and sanitation funds — decreases $220,300 from the 2010 budgeted amount of $4,080,970.

“We’re doing things different than we used to years ago,” Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said Wednesday. “We’re starting to see the fruits of decisions we made.”

The largest chunk of the decrease, $125,000, comes from the equipment budget. Because of a change in how trucks are used, they now last a year or two longer before needing replacement, according to Berg.

“Basically what we’re looking at is we’re trying to cut as much as we can,” he said. “Things are real tight.”

Berg said he no longer asks for a cushion in several line items. Any money left from the previous year is appropriated as needed to pay for extenuating circumstances like road repairs after winter damage.

Sheriff Terry Tanner, who handles separate budgets for the Dubois County Security Center and the sheriff’s department, is proposing substantial increases. This year’s budget for the security center is $1,113,041, while the department’s is $1,004,136. Tanner presented increases of $141,649 for the security center and $47,130 for the department.

The increase in the security center’s budget stems primarily from employee raises and the addition of a new administrative assistant at $33,348 a year.

“I’ve asked for an extra clerical person for several years,” Tanner said Wednesday, noting that he is retiring after this year. “I’m not sure what the new sheriff will want.”

The line item for inmate medical expenses, which the county must pay, also was upped from $65,000 to $100,000. Tanner said he tried reducing that item in this year’s budget, but decided to increase it again after court-ordered special care for a couple of inmates racked up the bills.
The increase in the departmental budget comes mainly from salary raises, most notably for the sheriff’s pay, which is estimated at $90,812 compared to $75,388 this year.

Tanner said the sheriff’s salary is based on a percentage of a full-time state prosecutor’s salary. The percent level is controlled by population reported on the most recent U.S. Census. The 2010 salary was based on the 2000 Census population of less than 40,000, which mandates a 60 percent level. Tanner said he used 2010 Census estimates and planned for the county to have more than 40,000 people, which bumps the percentage to 70.

“I don’t have the true figures right now,” Tanner said. “I wanted to put something out there. I may be on the high side but I didn’t want to shoot too low.”

Census figures for 2010 are scheduled to be reported in December.

Tanner also proposed a $54,091 increase for the department’s retirement plan. He wants to increase the pension for people who have served more than 20 years with the department.

“I put it in there to more or less open the door, just to get a discussion starting again,” he said. “The economic times just haven’t been the greatest.”

The largest increase proposed so far comes from county ambulance services, which receives a subsidy from the county. Ambulance coordinator Suzan Henke is requesting $746,161 for 2011.

“It’s almost identical to what we asked for last year,” she told the commissioners Tuesday, noting that the subsidy was reduced to $550,000 from the amount requested for 2010.

If granted, the subsidy would increase about $196,000 from this year.

The increase stems mostly from the county’s February commitment to upgrade ambulance services to the paramedic level. Telephone expenses also will go up because of a March upgrade to the ambulances’ Telular devices, which send electrocardiogram information to the hospital via wireless Internet connections.

The custodian’s proposed budget includes pay raises and an increase in the line item for supplies, pushing it up $12,000 from this year’s budget of $277,120. Dubois County 911 Communications is asking to add $16,777 to 2010’s $800,058 approved budget for pay raises. The Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District wants $12,943 added to this year’s budgeted amount of $81,960, also for pay raises.

Several organizations are included in the commissioners budget and won’t approach the county council. Southern Hills Counseling Center, whose contribution from the county is mandated by the state, is estimating a $10,346 increase from this year’s amount of $277,433. Southern Indiana Resource Solutions, Older Americans and Tri-Cap’s RSVP are asking for the same contribution amounts of $37,000, $25,000 and $5,000, respectively.

All county departments are seeking a $1,000 raise for salaried employees and a raise of 20 cents per hour for hourly employees, according to County Auditor Janet Sendelweck. The county’s Indiana Public Employees’ Retirement Fund expenses, which are mandated at the state level, will increase from 6.75 to 7.5 percent of each employee’s pay.

The county council’s budget hearings begin at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 2, in the council chambers of the Dubois County Courthouse Annex. A public hearing on the county budget is slated for 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at the same place, with final adoption planned for Sept. 27.

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.




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