News and Tribune

August 29, 2013

Clark County Commissioners transfer $1 million to rainy day fund

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —  Crisis averted.

The Clark County Commissioners transferred $1 million to the county’s rainy day fund Thursday, which means the Clark County Council will be able to pay what it owes for insurance premiums.

The county currently owes $95,640 for general liability insurance and $83,603 for worker’s compensation insurance. The council also will need to come up with a way to pay for the county’s employer share for health insurance, for which it owes $800,000.

The commissioners had considered a request from the council for a loan from the county’s cumulative bridge fund earlier this year, but had unanimously voted against it.

“We indicated that if we saw as we got closer to the end of the year [that the funds were available], that we could possibly look at this issue again,” said Commissioners President Jack Coffman. “Well, now we’re near the end of the year, and we do have commitments to be made to our county insurance to be paid.”

The commissioners transferred $200,000 from the cumulative capital fund and $800,000 from the cumulative bridge fund to the rainy day fund. The commissioners have authority over the two cumulative funds, but the county council can appropriate funds from the rainy day fund.

The vote for the transfer was 2-1, with Commissioner John Perkins opposing the move.

Perkins, reading from a prepared statement, said that while he enjoys working with his Republican counterparts on the board, he could not support the move.

“I feel a Band-Aid, a temporary approach that robs Peter to pay Paul, depletes the resources necessary for future, unanticipated emergencies such as tornadoes, bridge repairs and replacement, capital projects and purchases of needed equipment,” Perkins said.

Perkins cited a 2011 report prepared for the commissioners by Umbaugh & Associates that outlines how the county could mitigate its financial struggles.

“Two years ago, the Clark County Commissioners paid Umbaugh & Associates more than $40,000 to suggest ways to solve this problem,” Perkins said. “To date, none of these solutions have been implemented by the Clark County Council, but the council has repeatedly come to the commissioners for a bailout rather than make the decisions needed for a long-term solution.”

Council member Kelly Khuri, who was in attendance at the commissioners meeting, pointed out that the money needed by the council to pay the bills would have been in the general fund if not for the commissioners’ decision in 2012 to increase the cumulative bridge fund rate, which directly impacts the general fund.

When reached for comment, Council Vice President Brian Lenfert applauded the commissioners’ decision to approve the transfer of funds.

“I think it’s very positive. This is the kind of cooperation that taxpayers appreciate, that we are no longer looking at things as county council dollars, county commissioner dollars,” Lenfert said. “It’s now county dollars, and the two bodies are working together to find out what available dollars there are to pay the necessary bills to get through the year. I applaud the cooperation.”

Commissioner Rick Stephenson said that transferring the funds to a fund the council could use was the right thing to do, and said the alternative would be the council zeroing out the courts’ budget, forcing another mandate.

“We don’t want to impose more taxes on Clark County residents. We get to do all of our projects that we’ve slated for the year and still have this money left over that we cannot spend by the end of the year,” Stephenson said. “That’s why it’s better to give it to the rainy day fund, so the county does not have to mandate and cost the taxpayers more money.”



911 AGREEMENT APPROVED

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve an ordinance establishing an interlocal agreement between the county and its municipalities to consolidate 911 operations.

The county is the first government unit to sign off on the document. County Attorney Jake Elder said the goal is to have all participating municipalities sign the agreement by the end of September.

The agreement would establish a fiscal board and an operations board to oversee emergency dispatch. The fiscal board would be comprised of appointments from the county and its municipalities, while the operations board would be comprised of local fire and law enforcement officials.

“It was 2009 when we started this, and it never got anywhere,” Coffman said. “All accolades to our attorney, who’s been working on this since the first of the year and has finally gotten this together. He met with the other entities and got their approval, so I commend our attorney for getting this interlocal agreement together.”

By statute, the county’s emergency dispatch operations must be consolidated by the end of 2014.