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February 12, 2014

Floyd County Parks only funded for half year

County Council president to meet with parks director

NEW ALBANY — Last month, the Department of Local Government Finance did something it was not expected to do — certify Floyd County’s 2014 budget. The budget was projected to be $2.9 million short when it was sent to the state late last year.

While that was good news, Floyd County still has many financial hurdles to clear, which was evident at Tuesday’s Floyd County Council meeting.

Last year, the council made a 25 percent, across-the-board budget cut to help with the budget deficit and financial issues facing the county. However, while some officeholders are still trying to deal with those cuts and hope to have budgets restored, the Floyd County Parks Department is facing a crisis of its own.

The parks 2014 budget was approved at $497,000. The tax levy funds $244,000 of that budget. However, the council did not fund the other half, which means on June 30, the department will run out of money.

In 2013, the parks department faced the same issue, but the council managed to fund half the 2013 budget out of the riverboat fund. But there is no guarantee there will be enough money in the riverboat account to fund half of the parks budget in 2014.

“We have done this for six years now. We need to find a permanent solution [to funding issue],” Parks Director Roger Jeffers told the council Tuesday. “We service more New Albany people than the New Albany parks does and we have the nicest facilities.”

Jeffers said the Floyd County Parks Department has five employees and takes care of 400 acres of property along with the Southern Indiana Sports Center.

Jeffers also said that the parks department had $83,000 left from its 2013 budget, so the council may only need to come up with $160,000. He also expects the department to bring in $300,000 in revenue through club volleyball leagues, rentals and adult leagues.

Council President Jim Wathen said he will meet with Jeffers to try and come up with a budget solution.

“I understand there is no money, but I have to have a budget,” Jeffers said.

Floyd County’s 2014 budget deficit was eliminated by a property tax levy increase of $500,000 over last year and an extra $400,000 from economic-development income taxes. The $900,000 along with the $1.5 million cash balance the county had when 2013 ended from the council making 25 percent cuts made up for the budget deficit.

However, the county is expected to have only $18,000 in the general fund at the end of the year.

NEW COMPUTERS NEEDED

Floyd County’s Information Technology Director Brad Walker told the council Tuesday that 200 computers in the county need to be replaced since its vendors will no longer support Windows XP after April 8.

Walker said he has worked out a five-year purchase plan with Dell that will cost the county $47,280 a year .

Some of the old computers will be repurposed, Walker said. He said the county’s new computers will run Windows 8, and that all of the computers will be under warranty for five years, and the county will own the equipment once the lease expires.

Walker said the new computers can be paid for with the $8,200-a-year telecommunications contract payment that will soon expire, the $50,000 the city gives the county for  IT services and the $61,000 pledged by various officeholders to come out of their budgets for the new machines.

While the council could not make a formal vote since the request was not advertised, they gave Walker the approval to get the process moving.

PUBLIC DEFENDER PAY

The council tabled a request from Chief Public Defender Pat Biggs to restore the pay of the five part-time public defenders in Floyd County.

When the council made 25 percent across-the-board cuts last year to contractual services, public defenders’ pay was included. Their pay, of $34,600 a year, was not restored in the 2014 budget.

“If we approve this, it will open the door for other officeholders to come back and ask us to reinstate their funds. That could be problematic,” said Council Vice President Brad Striegel.

If pay is reduced by one-third, that means the caseloads will be reduced as well.

Auditor Scott Clark said there is enough in the public defender’s budget for seven or eight months to restore pay to $34,600 in order to give the council time to come up with a plan. Council members said there needs to be a discussion about restoring pay for professional contractual services.

Biggs was told to come back next month. The public defenders’ pay is the same as it was in 1981, he said. He also said either side — county or public defender — can void a contract within 30 days notice.

“I think there is a big distinction between professional services and those services for [items like copier] maintenance,” council member John Schellenberger said.

While Biggs was told to come back, Superior Court Judge No. 2 Judge Glenn Hancock’s request for $17,427.50 for a pauper attorney, which is separate from Biggs’ office, was approved.

“You keep beating yourself to death over something you will eventually approve,” Hancock told the council. “All we are asking for is what we had last year, and the year before that and the year before that. I will come and get a chuckle next month if you want me to.”

But the council approved his request, 5-2.

POLL EQUIPMENT APPROVED

The council approved $60,830 out of EDIT funds to be used for new e-poll books, which includes 30 laptops and 30 scanners for new voting machines to be placed in 10 voting centers across the county on Election Day.

DOCTOR’S CONTRACT RESTORED

The council also approved to restore the jail doctor’s pay to $24,000. Due to cuts last year, Dr. Dan Eichenberger’s pay was cut to $18,000.

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