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October 24, 2013

Floyd County makes cuts, still has work to do

No layoffs but still more than $2 million shy of budget

(Continued)

FLOYD COUNTY — BUILDING ISSUES

Lopp addressed the county council on behalf of the commissioners in part to notify the body of the cost reductions and also to discuss some of the issues raised recently about building purchases.

Some have questioned why the county spent $1.5 million to purchase the former Pineview Elementary School last year, as the building has been converted into a government center. But Lopp countered that the commissioners didn’t just purchase the property for county offices, but also so the Floyd County Youth Shelter could have a new home.

The shelter had been located at the North Annex off Grant Line Road before it was moved to Pineview. Lopp said the condition of the North Annex had declined too much for it to house the youth shelter.

“I wouldn’t put a dead dog at the North Annex, let alone have the most vulnerable youth placed out there,” he said.

Lopp added that federal funds are also being used to keep the bond costs for Pineview lower than they would have been if the county purchased it alone.

He added the commissioners — who control real estate owned by the county — are “willing to enter into discussions” with the council about selling some properties to help with the shortfall.

Lopp clarified that the commissioners willingness to consider the matter isn’t a sign that the body endorses selling any specific properties.

The North Annex, for example, has been discussed as a possible property the county could sell. Schellenberger named a council committee to work with the commissioners on property issues.

There’s one zoning change that could potentially save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it would require New Albany’s help.

The Pineview Government Center is located about 100 feet from the New Albany limits, according to Lopp.

By Indiana Constitution, offices such as county auditor, assessor and recorder must be located within the county seat. In Floyd County, the county seat is New Albany, and thus those offices have remained at the City-County Building.

Schellenberger said the county pays the Building Authority — the entity that manages the City-County Building — more than $950,000 annually for rent.

Most of those offices could be moved to Pineview if the city were to annex the property, but New Albany and the county have been at odds over various funding issues, and cooperation might not come easily.

New Albany City Councilman Dan Coffey offered the city administration’s assistance to the county to deal with the shortfall last week. He was asked Thursday by Schellenberger if he would sponsor an annexation ordinance for the city to consider.

Coffey didn’t decline to take the matter to the city council, but he added New Albany would have to consider what additional expenses it would incur if it annexed the property.

He questioned why the county purchased Pineview if annexation was an issue.

“We don’t purchase properties unless we know what we can use them for,” Coffey said.

After the meeting, Coffey said the county’s shortfall is a big issue to New Albany because the city makes up almost half of the county’s population. The city endured its own budget struggles just a few years ago, and had to account for a $4 million shortfall after the state cut New Albany’s revenue due to past deficits.

Coffey said the county may not be able to crawl out of the fiscal hole in a short period of time.

“We didn’t lay anybody off. We didn’t cut services. We didn’t raise taxes. But it took us about two years “ to balance the budget, he said.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Pineview Government Center to vote on the 2014 budget.

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