By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY — Hopefully by this time next month, Floyd County will have a real certified budget from the state.
In late February, it was announced the Department of Local Government and Finance certified Floyd County’s budget at zero after it was revealed the county had a $2.4 million deficit after revenue did not match the projected budgets submitted. Council members said incorrect figures from the Floyd County Auditor’s office is what led to the problem late last year when figuring the 2013 budget.
Since the announcement, Don Lopp, director of county operations, and Teresa Plaiss, former county auditor, have been working on coming up with cuts and trying to figure out the county’s cash balance as of Jan. 1, 2013. On Tuesday afternoon, the Floyd County Council held a work session to discuss the ongoing budget issue and to get an update from Lopp.
Council President John Schellenberger said some progress has been made. He said at the April 9 regular council meeting, the council plans on passing budgets for the health department, parks department, motor vehicle highway budget and CAGIT, or County Adjusted Gross Income Tax. However, Schellenberger said the council is not ready to send a general-fund budget back to the state for certification. He hopes to have a certified budget in late April.
“Once we find out what our cash on hand was as of Jan. 1, 2013, then we will have a better idea and be able to send it up to the DLGF,” Schellenberger said. “We are still trying to find out how much cash we had ... . That is the key. We still do not have a solid estimate of revenue streams. We just aren’t ready to submit a budget yet.”
Council Vice President Dana Fendley said Lopp, Plaiss and the council are trying to go through two years of figures to straighten out was she calls “a mess.”
“Don and Teresa are doing the best they can, but every time they make a proposal they don’t have the numbers to back it up,” she said. “We will just have to wait until we get control of all the numbers. We have money, we just don’t know what accounts it is suppose to be in.”
Lopp said the budget process is making progress. He said they are just trying to be “very cautious” moving forward.
“We are just trying to get a firm baseline so that we can have the ability to budget off that baseline,” he said. “We are still working through some things and double- and triple-checking everything.
“We have had about four weeks and I don’t think it’s been any longer or more difficult than what we expected. We are trying to be very in tune to details.”
A representative with the Indiana State Board of Accounts is in New Albany and expected to meet with Floyd County officials this week.
Recently, Lopp presented some short- and long-term recommendations to Floyd County Council members for them to consider, which he said Wednesday have helped. Short-term recommendations made by Lopp include:
• Allowing the county to start hiring new employees to replace employees who are leaving beginning May 29. A hiring freeze is in effect following the Feb. 28 special budget meeting;
• Allow the payment of all claims for March 15 cycle;
• Maintain current funding levels of budgets and keep budget cuts submitted by the departments as an alternative if budget cuts are recommended by the DLGF.
Other recommendations included to freeze all EDIT and riverboat fund appropriations, accelerate repayment of stormwater and Pine View construction costs back to EDIT, remove the Cumulative Bridge Fund from the 2013 tax levy and appropriate CAGIT funds into the general fund which will give the county an additional $779,000 to use toward a shortfall.
“This is something we were thrown into,” Schellenberger said. “Once we got past the initial confusion we were able to come up with a strategy. We now have a better handle on it.”
Floyd County Auditor Darin Coddington announced March 1 he will resign his post effective May 3. However, he didn’t say he was quitting due to the ongoing budget issues, but cited “personal reasons.”