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County budget will get nudge

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GREENFIELD — Preliminary figures for the 2015 Hancock County budget show little growth from 2014 operating figures.

County council members spent all day Wednesday hearing 2015 budget requests from department heads, and no one came away with much.

While some officials were seeking increases in pay and hoping to hire more employees, others kept their budget estimates the same or close to last year’s figures. 

Overall, 2015 budget estimates call for just over $36.1 million to run county government.

Budget chairman Jim Shelby said that figure represents a slight increase of $200,000 to $300,000 more than in 2014.

Shelby said it means there will be no across-the-board pay increases and limited new hires.

“The only raises that are coming are in the Probation Department, and that is due to the state mandate,” Shelby said. “They set their salaries, and we have to follow that.”

Prior to the budget hearings Wednesday, the council’s budget committee created a target plan with a maximum $300,000 increase. Council members tried to stick to that regardless of the requests they heard.

The sheriff’s department proposed hiring two new deputies and four more jail officers, plus a part-time maintenance person.   

Only the maintenance worker’s job was approved.

“We had to ask,” said Maj. Brad Burkhart. “We’re just trying to fend off the trouble before it happens.”

Council members seemed sympathetic but said the finances are too tight.

“We appreciate your concerns, but we’ve got concerns ourselves,” Councilman Marc Huber said. “It’s not like we don’t want to help out.”

In order to afford the new officers, the council would have to vote to raise taxes. Shelby said the council didn’t want to do that.

 “We don’t have the money,” Shelby said.  

He said the slight increase in the projected 2015 budget will not mean a tax increase.

The county will have to spend most of the increase in the budget to pay an estimated $100,000 increase in insurance costs and another $35,000 for a community corrections staffer. The council also will have to add money to the sheriff’s retirement fund.        

Shelby said those obligations add up to about $260,000

The council also appropriated additional funding from the Food and Beverage Fund to pay for a 27th payday in 2015. That amounted to an extra $386,000 to pay salaries.

The good news coming out of the budget session stems from the fact the county is scheduled to make a final bond payment of over $381,000 in January to pay off a $4 million bond from 2007.       

A budget committee meeting is scheduled again for Aug. 6.

The 2015 budget is scheduled for publication on Aug. 21 and then again on Aug. 28. A council meeting and public hearing on the budget is slated for Sept. 10.

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