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Police & Fire News

February 12, 2014

Sheriff: Funding mandate request coming soon in Clark County

Rodden says operating budget deficit closer to $6 million

JEFFERSONVILLE — The Clark County Council carved about $4.9 million out of its general fund budget on Monday, with about $4.4 million of that coming out of the sheriff’s department operating budget. But taxpayers could end up paying much more than that to keep the sheriff’s department afloat.

Sheriff Danny Rodden said Tuesday that the department is closer to $6 million in the red, and that the department is likely to file suit against the county to make up the difference.

“It’s not like it’s a new thing,” Rodden said. “Three out of the last four years, I’ve had to contend with this. This is the way they’ve chosen to balance the budget.”

The county council borrowed $2.8 million last year to pay what it cut from the sheriff’s budget, and a court-mandated tax rate to service the loan will be appearing on property tax bills this year. Rodden said his department needs about $5.7 million to keep the jail running and officers on the streets.

“I don’t know how to fix it, but I do know that we have to have the sheriff’s office, by statute,” Rodden said. “We have to have the jail. We have to provide certain services, and I’ll have to go to court and hopefully the judge will agree that we have to provide money for these services. So that is my intention, to consult an attorney, which I have done for two out of the last three years, and we’ll present a case to have that funding reinstated.”

In previous years, the sheriff’s department has sold equipment procured through military surplus programs and  housed inmates from other counties and the Indiana Department of Correction to make up a portion of budget shortfalls, and Rodden said he plans to do both again this year. But he said that it’s only reasonable to expect those programs to generate about $750,000.

County Council Vice President Brian Lenfert said the council’s estimate of Rodden’s shortfall differed from Rodden’s because Rodden included cuts the council made to the sheriff’s operating budget prior to submitting the budget for approval with the state Department of Local Government Finance.

“He’s including the number that we had to lower in [Local Option Income Tax] as well, which is a big chunk of his operations budget,” Lenfert said. “That’s generally the first place that we cover with additional appropriations of the miscellaneous revenue that he brings in from housing inmates and selling surplus assets. I think nearly all of that operations gap was covered in 2013, and it was only the payroll that was in county general that we had to cover with the mandate last year.”

Lenfert said the county must tax properties at a rate of 10 cents per $100 assessed valuation to generate $4 million in tax revenue. Properties already up against the circuit breaker tax caps that limit the amount of taxes that can be collected would not be affected by a mandate for funds, Lenfert explained.

Lenfert said the county council will have a better idea of how many properties in the county that will be affected by additional tax rates in about two weeks, which is when the county’s budget abstract will be complete.  

 

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