By MATT KOESTERS
The Clark County Council received its budget order from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance much earlier than usual this year, but the order’s early arrival didn’t make the news any better.
The council was forced to slash nearly $5 million from the county’s $17.5 million general fund budget in response to the DLGF budget order at its regular meeting Monday, with the lion’s share coming out of the sheriff department’s operating budgets for both the jail and the police force.
About $435,000 in expenses were shifted from the general fund to the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax, or CAGIT, fund.
“It looks like we’re doing the same with less every year,” said Council President Barbara Hollis.
Sheriff Danny Rodden filed suit against the county last year to cover a $2.8 million budget gap. With a $4.4 million budget gap to make up this year, it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that Rodden will be forced to do so again, Hollis said.
“That would be assumed,” Hollis said.
Council Vice President Brian Lenfert wasn’t willing to say the chances of a sheriff’s mandate for funds being filed are 100 percent, but conceded that it’s very likely.
“The council along with the sheriff will work as hard as possible to come up with miscellaneous revenue streams into the sheriff’s coffers as well as any expenses we can cut through transfer appropriations to his office,” Lenfert said.
Lenfert attributed the county’s budget woes to a variety of factors, including the loss of about $1 million in revenue from the county’s Alcohol and Drug Services Fund. The county voluntarily lowered its maximum levy by 25 percent in 2007, and in 2012 the county commissioners increased the rate on the county’s cumulative bridge fund, which impacts the general fund.
Lenfert said it would take action by the Indiana General Assembly to increase Clark County’s budget order. He said he’s had discussions about the problem with the county’s representatives in Indianapolis, but said nothing will be done in this year’s legislative session.
The sheriff’s department will attempt to bridge the $4.4 million gap in funding through miscellaneous revenue sources, including housing inmates from the Indiana Department of Correction and other counties, and the sale of surplus equipment.
In addition to the $4.9 million slash to the general fund, the council also backed more than $1 million in appropriations from the county’s local roads and streets fund, which is outside of the general fund.