Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

March 14, 2014

Council eyes tough budget decisions

(Continued)

All department heads recommended axing employees’ raises, which would save $114,000. In all, the council approved $302,504 in department head-suggested reductions 5-1-1, with Maxie abstaining because she works in the highway department and Oglesby opposed.

Kramer said, “Guys, that was the easy part. Now we have some tough decisions.” Leffingwell flipped the third page of figures onto the wall screen. The proposal suggested eliminating 11 full-time and four part-time jobs.

With $124,286 still needing to be slashed from the budget, Koch urged that before firing employees, he would prefer lowering the health insurance reserve. “That would take care of it.” Kramer said, “This issue of the health care fund is so important, I want to have proof” that decreasing it would not harm employees’ coverage. “Underfunding health care could be devastating later on.” The issue will be researched.

Leffingwell noted using around $200,000 from the insurance fund this year instead of making job cuts is a stopgap measure. “We won’t have unspent CAGIT money next year like this year” on which to rely.

Oglesby said county employees “work their rear ends off. I’m opposed to this. I think it should be set aside and done at a later date if we would need it. You are cutting the throat of this county.” Exclamations of agreement came from some of 40 attendees, a handful of whom were on the reductions list.

Her motion to set the proposal aside was shot down 3-4 with Kramer, Leffingwell, Joe Sizemore, Metamora, and Dean McQueen, West Harrison, wanting to go ahead with the eliminations. Oglesby labeled the vote “absolutely stupid” amid growing murmurs from the crowd. Yet then the council voted 3-4 not to advertise this portion, with Sizemore going from wanting cuts to not wanting to advertise them. That move was met with applause.

Well into the contentious three-and-a-half-hour meeting, one at a time, elected officials came up to the podium to beg to keep their employees. Treasurer Veronica Voelker insisted her deputy remain. Linkel wanted the commissioners’ secretary to stay, but then he bargained, saying two part-time positions in maintenance and animal control could be gone. He balked at getting rid of one of two custodians for the courthouse, government center and grounds. “We can’t do it with one. There’s no way.”

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