County starts work on budget: Requests exceed this year’s general fund by $1.36 million


Jackson County Council members recently spent a day receiving information about 2018 general budget requests that exceed this year’s general fund budget by $1.36 million.

But by the time the council finishes its work and adopts a final general fund budget Oct. 18, it likely will be right at the $12,256,000 in anticipated revenues, Councilman Brian Thompson said.

“We will have a balanced budget,” he said. “We don’t have to have one, and a lot of counties don’t, but we will.”

Thompson said it’s possible the county might also have a little more to spend if local income tax revenue for 2018 comes in higher than anticipated.

General fund budget requests by elected officials and department heads for 2018 are $13,130,949, which is about $866,000 higher than anticipated revenues.

This year’s general fund budget is $11,780,828.

The budget process will continue at 9 a.m. Sept. 20 at the courthouse annex in Brownstown and end with final adoption at 6 p.m. Oct. 18.

The proposed budget includes raise requests that range from little or nothing to nearly 20 percent, and that’s one area where savings can be found, Thompson said.

The council likely will come up with a percentage raise for employees across the board with the exception of a couple of cases where larger increases might be necessary because of the need to try to keep experienced employees, Thompson said.

There are several budget increase requests that will have to be approved without much debate, and most of those involve departments dealing with criminal justice issues. They include an increase of $119,000 in the public defender (pauper attorney) budget for an additional attorney to deal with an increase in caseload.

Because the state reimburses the county 40 percent of the cost of operating that office, it limits the number of cases each public defender can be assigned at any given time, Councilman Dave Hall said.

If caseloads exceed the state-imposed limit, the state can withhold funding, he added.

Currently, when caseloads are exceeded, other attorneys can be hired to help out part time, and Hall said he thinks that might be a possible option instead of adding another attorney.

The addition of another public defender to the present staff of four also requires adding a secretary, and the council also needs to consider giving the prosecutor’s office another attorney to balance it out, Thompson said.

The prosecutor’s office has to handle all criminal cases, while the public defender’s office only deals with those who can’t afford an attorney, Thompson said of the need for adding a prosecutor.

Sheriff Mike Carothers also has asked for an additional $100,000 in his jail budget to add two more jailers. A recent increase in the inmate population means that help is needed, Hall said.

The average inmate count was 224 per day for the first half of the year, but Thursday’s count was 259.

Jackson Superior Court II Judge Bruce MacTavish is requesting an additional $10,000 to pay for court appointed special advocates when volunteers can’t be found, Thompson said.

CASA is a program that provides advocacy to child victims of abuse and neglect to ensure they remain at the forefront of the court proceedings and find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible.

MacTavish asked the council to make sure that’s the one request in his budget that is not cut, Thompson said.

“He’s passionate about CASA,” he said.

One of the other general fund budget requests that has to be approved without much discussion is the $160,000 that Clerk Amanda Lowery has requested for next year’s election. That’s an item missing from this year’s budget because there is not an election.

Jana Wessel also is requesting $129,000 for additional full- and part-time janitorial help with the opening of the judicial center in Brownstown in late summer of 2018.

Hall said since there would only be about three months remaining in the year at that time, the council has discussed the idea of funding that need another way.

One of the areas where an additional pay raise is being considered is the sheriff’s department, where the sheriff and Detective Tom Barker have asked the council to boost the pay for veteran officers to bring their pay more in line with Seymour officers and state troopers with the same experience.

Currently, a county officer with 15 years of experience makes $43,118.49, compared to a city officer with 15 years on the job who makes $56,688.10 and a state trooper who makes $70,049.46. Under the proposal, a county officer would make $56,056 after 15 years of service.

To bring current officers’ salaries to that point would require a one-year injection of $265,000, and that’s something the council might consider doing in steps, Thompson said.

Dennis Brasher, executive director of Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, also is seeking additional pay for medical personnel to help them pay the $5,000 it takes to complete emergency medical technician training.

Right now, the employee has to pay the cost and is reimbursed over a four-year period, and that’s leading the department to lose staff, Brasher said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”By the numbers” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]


General fund;$11,780,828;$13,130,949


Cumulative bridge;$331,224;$350,184




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