After failure of the Clark County Council and commissioners to broker a deal to close a $2.5 million budget gap in the sheriff’s department at a joint workshop Monday, it appears that significant mandated tax rates are inevitable.
“Unfortunately, I think that we’re looking at tax increases that could have been much, much lower had we had cooperation [from the commissioners] with [cumulative capital fund] dollars and [cumulative] bridge dollars that have been voluntarily used in the past to help with the county budget,” said County Council Vice President Brian Lenfert.
As it has in the past with the commissioners’ blessing, the council aims to use the two funds — both under the commissioners’ control — and County Economic Development Income Tax, or CEDIT, funds to help pay salaries in the county jail that are currently unfunded. The council hopes that the sheriff’s department’s sale of equipment obtained through a federal surplus program will add about $450,000, but about $1.5 million would have to come from the commissioners.
But the commissioners are not prepared to use the money in those funds, citing Indiana code and State Board of Accounts requirements.
“Are you asking us to break the law?” Commissioner Rick Stephenson asked the council.
The commissioners said that in previous SBOA audits, the county had been written up for using the cumulative capital fund — which is supposed to be used only for capital improvements and purchases — as a second general fund.
“You want us to break Indiana code,” Stephenson said. “We have been cited in 2005, 2007, the commissioners in 2010 on State Board of Accounts [audits] for the same thing over and over and over. And you’re asking us now to break code.
“We’re not here to be breaking rules. We’re supposed to be upholding the rules. And now you’re asking us to throw the rulebook out.”