2017-07-12 / Front Page

County Council plods through fiscal issues

EDIT course correction planned
By Debbie Lowe
Staff writer

Carroll County Council members have faced many issues relating to county finances in the past several months and did more of the same at their Monday afternoon meeting. One of those issues discussed was how to handle the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) distribution. The current funds in the plan have not been appropriated by the Council for distribution, yet at least one check has been issued from the fund.

According to Council member Jamie Rough, the reason the proposed EDIT budget was not presented to the Council for appropriation is because the County Commissioners, who develop the budget, have been advised by their legal counsel, Ted Johnson, that the Council does not appropriate the money.

“This is just another way we are put in conflict with the Commissioners,” Rough said.

“This is pretty clear statutorily,” stated Council attorney Eric Burns. “Appropriating the money is the Council’s job.”

Council member Ann Brown said for the Council to appropriate the EDIT funds, there must be a Capital Improvement Plan, also developed by Commissioners. Council President Jason Scott advised, as far as he can tell, no one can find the plan, although it is assumed one exists.

The Council decided to back the posting of the appropriation out of the system and hold a special meeting to approve the amount already spent. This will happen after an additional appropriation for the amount has been advertised to advise taxpayers about the matter.

“I think we should at least attempt to do the right thing,” Brown stated.

A special meeting/public hearing will be held Aug. 14 at 3 p.m. to approve the money which has already been issued. The regular Council meeting is the same day and that meeting will begin at 3:15 p.m.

Another issue discussed was an outstanding invoice from WTH for service to the county. WTH is used by the Highway Department as a database of all roads, culverts and ditches. The Area Plan Commission (APC) uses the service to assign 911 addresses. It is believed the service is also used by the 911, however it was not clear why.

The Carroll County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) also received a bill for a portion of the service. Director Dana Jeffries advised the Council during the 2017 budget workshops, his department has no need for the service. Therefore, no money was put into the EMA budget for the expense.

Former Council member Jim Hancock, who was in the audience, reminded the Council the money for the EMA portion was added to one of the other budgets to make up the difference. Jeffries was not aware of which other department received the extra funds to pay the remainder of the invoice.

Jeffries was directed to discuss the matter with the other departments involved to resolve the issue. Rough said he thinks the county is paying for far too many licenses for the service. He said he does not understand why either the new CAD system at 911 or Beacon Schneider, the county’s GIS provider, is not able to provide the same service.

Discussion then turned to the new CAD system. It was announced by Scott the new CAD system is not yet working, although it was approved for purchase before the end of last year. Scott, who serves on the jail committee, explained the system purchased is designed for city, not county, use. He said when an address on “Main St.” is displayed, there is no further explanation, such as in what specific locality (town or city).

Council members agreed this situation should be addressed soon in case the resolution to the system deficit for Carroll County costs more money, which will need to be budgeted. Transfers/additional appropriations requested

County Coroner Jordan Cree requested an additional appropriation for $6,000 for autopsies and another $600 for his deputy coroner, Jay Dee Cree, who is former coroner. The Council agreed to advertise for the money for the autopsies because it is the county’s obligation to provide them. It was noted Coroner Cree should manage his budget and be willing to provide the needed services rather than relying on the former coroner. His request for more funding for the deputy coroner was denied.

APC Zoning Administrator Doug Wagner requested, for the second month, to double the funding for a part-time person using department transfers. Wagner told the Council his request Wednesday was “basically the same as last month” and that request received no action.

Rough said it appeared Wagner and APC want to “bend the rules” by “blowing through the budget,” which he considers unacceptable.

“That’s my complaint,” Rough said. “You burned through the money.”

Other Council members agreed. It was noted the reason to develop a budget is to set a spending plan. Rough said the Council needed to take a vote on the matter or Wagner would continue to appear at each council meeting with the request. Brown made a motion to deny the request. Council member Carol Clawson provided the second. Five of the seven members voted to deny the request and the motion passed.

Wagner asked what the reason was for the denial. He was told by more than one Council member one reason was that when the APC approached the Council with a request to pay Wagner $45,000 to begin, they were assured he would be more trained and able to handle the office without a lot of help. Elected officials, such as the Auditor, the Clerk and the Treasurer were appropriated a salary of $37,624 for 2017 while Wagner’s salary was appropriated $45,250.

Ramirez pay claim

It was noted that an outstanding claim for roughly $324 submitted by former Council attorney Rafael Ramirez has not been approved by the Commissioners for pay. The work was done for the Council by request of then Council President Rough.

“If the work was done, they have to pay,” stated Attorney Burns.

It was decided Ramirez may need to take legal action against the Commissioners to resolve the issue.

Other business

The Council plans to hire former Council member Hancock to provide administrative services to the group during the 2018 budget preparation process. The Council usually meets for approximately 40 hours to develop the upcoming year’s spending plan, during which there is considerable discussion and deliberation.

A special meeting will be held July 24 at 4 p.m. to discuss a Public Safety tax.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be Aug. 14 at 3:30 p.m.

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