In response to the News and Tribune’s recent editorial regarding the fiscal condition of Floyd County, the Board of Floyd County Commissioners believes it is necessary to respond to the misinformed opinion in the editorial.
As the executive branch of county government, the commissioners are responsible for the development and implementation of public policy for certain county operations. The county council is responsible for the fiscal oversight of those public policies and the fiscal operations of the functions of county government through the various elected offices.
It is an accurate statement in the editorial to make that the fiscal issues facing the county did not come out of the blue. It is not, however, accurate to say or be dismissive that the fiscal impact of a nationally known murder case and the shortcomings of a new officeholder were not major contributing factors to fiscal condition now being faced. County officials have been working on this issue and have responded with several actions in the last year in attempt to mitigate the impact of these factors. Below is a listing of the actions that have been taken during the past year.
The commissioners engaged the county council and the former county auditor in the fall of 2012 on issues surrounding the county’s 2012 expenditures side of the budget when issues surround mistakes by the former auditor first started to come to light. During this time period, the commissioners reduced its 2012 EDIT budget request from $842,000 to zero in a proactive attempt to balance the expenditures with reported revenues from the auditor office. At that time, the auditor made several assurances to the commissioners and county council that the revenue side was sound. That, however, was not the case.
In February, the county budgets were not approved by the state in part for the reasons surrounding the revenue figures. In an effort to mitigate this growing issue, the commissioners approved the accelerated repayment of $700,000 in funds uses for capital improvements in an effort to offset the results of this mismanagement. Additionally, the cost of two murder trials started to exceed the previous projected estimates and caused additional strain on already tight budgets.
The commissioners in August provided the council with a $475,000 inter-departmental loan allowable by Indiana state statute to provide assistance for the additional court costs. On Oct. 24, 2013, the commissioners submitted a revised budget request that lowered the commissioners’ 2014 budget by an additional $430,000. In total over the past two years, the commissioners have reduced its budget requests for funding certain county operations by $1.2 million and accelerated repayment of funds and loan funds back to the county council in the order of $1.1 million as a means to lessen the impact of these conditions.
It is disingenuous at best and misleading to the readers of the paper to create a false narrative that the causes of this crisis is solely based on the county decisions regarding Pine View and the Charlestown Road Park project. The annual costs of both projects are $210,000 and are pledged through EDIT funds, not general fund revenues where the shortfall of funds exists.
The editorial board seemed to conveniently forget that the Pine View Government Center does not only house governmental offices but also serves as the 24-hour residential facility and operations hub of the Open Door Youth Services Bureau. This same facility was the topic of an earlier editorial advocating the county seek a new facility for these children. The commissioners and county council responded to this glaring need for a new facility in a fiscally sound manner. Now, this decision is being held up by the editorial board as financially unsound decision and a reason for the shortfall.
It must be noted that the Pine View decision was made three years before this financial situation hit and it is a stretch logically that the decision to purchase and renovate Pine View as a root cause of the county’s fiscal condition.
In the case of the Charlestown Road Park, the county obligation is for $60,000 with the remainder coming from the county parks department nonreverting capital funds that are generated by the parks operations. Additionally, as part of the purchase, the county required the New Albany Little League to enter into a purchase agreement to pay back over a period of time the fair market value of the land to be used as fields. The payment of the county bond obligation does not start until 2014 and the total annual cost associated with the backing of EDIT funds is only 2 percent of the total county EDIT revenue stream.
It is true tough decisions lie ahead for the county and its elected officials. However, before eschewing the lack of leadership by the officials it would seem appropriate to get all of the facts on the issue before rendering an indictment on poor leadership and providing misinformation on the causes of this issue.
— The Floyd County Board of Commissioners: Stephen A. Bush, Mark Seabrook and Charles Freiberger