Delaware County IN government could face sequester by May
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Delaware County government might have impose a sequester of its own just to make it to spring tax distribution..
In other words, the county is broke and had to take emergency steps Monday to borrow $1.5 million from Rainy Day funds, a source of property tax revenue it tapped last month to cover health insurance spending.
The vote was 4-2 with council Republicans Rick Spangler and Scott Alexander saying no to a band aide that will only last until April.
County Auditor Judy Rust offered a report that county government could not even meet payroll this month without more cash. And cash is what county government does not have, spending about $663,000 every other week in payroll and more for health insurance and pensions for sheriff's deputies.
With property tax caps imposed by Republican lawmakers, it was amusing to see local Republican lawmakers vote against using Rainy Day money and even proposing that taxpayers pay taxes early to let government spend even more than they don't have.
Council Republican Ron Quakenbush offered that suggestion but council Democrats like Kevin Nemyer and Chris Matchett wanted another meeting to actual talk about spending reductions, like were forced by the federal government when $85 billion in spending cuts took place last Friday.
Donna Patterson, county budget guru, delivered the bad news after warning council a month ago of the pending financial problems.With more payroll and pension obligations like the state wanting bi-weekly instead of quarterly Public Employment Retirement Fund payments, there just was not enough money to last through the next tax distribution.
Alexander talked about getting spending under control, but there were not quick fixes or any talk of cutting jobs or benefits.
The last time council tried to reduce manpower and benefits, county judges filed suit and are still litigating pay from 2012. And the county has labor contracts with sheriff's deputies, corrections officers and paramedics that lock in pay and benefits.
A pair of Circuit Court Judges, Linda Ralu Wolf and Tom Cannon Jr., along with County Sheriff Mike Scroggins and County Prosecutor Jeff Arnold, sat in the audience, seeing whether they would get a pay check this month.
Members of the Delaware County Commissioners, Larry Bledsoe, James King and Sherry Riggin, were not present, and took no action Monday to put a stop to spending. Actually, the commissioners reappointed all current county department heads and officials at their present rate of pay.
Patterson made it clear that Rainy Day money would not last through May, and some questioned what bank would loan the county money if it could not pay it back.
Some Good Government and other liberal members of the audience did not seem inclined to pay taxes early or even on time, given the economy still has thousands out of work, without health care and barely able to pay their taxes. Voters also did not want to consolidate local government in 2012.
As one partisan said, the sequester is not a bad idea.