Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

April 1, 2014

Ripley County has $17.96 million budget

Diane Raver The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — When preparing county budgets, “the challenge every year is to match revenues and expenditures,” reports Ed Armbrecht, Ripley County Council Budget Committee member.

The committee consists of five members: three from county council, President Dephane Smith, Bill McDonald and Armbrecht; commissioner Robert Reiners; and auditor Bill Wagner.

“The finance committee does not make any decisions concerning the budgets. They only present recommendations to the council (members who) review the recommendations and generally set the parameters for the elected officials and department heads in the preparation of their budgets .... (Members) usually request written explanations for any items exceeding their recommendations,” Armbrecht notes.

This year’s budget is $17.96 million, up $2.59 million from 2013. “Although there were many budget items that made up this increase, the material items .... (were): new funds for 2014 which did not exist in 2013, $903,200; increase in secure detention costs, $100,000; election expense, $80,000; employee benefits and payroll costs, $181,954; increase in county highway funding, $675,770; and capital improvements, $400,184.”

Reasons for the added dollar amounts are higher costs for providing secure detentions for juveniles, increased highway funding from the state, increase in health insurance and Public Employees Retirement Fund costs, needed repairs for the courthouse and jail and this year’s election costs, he reveals.

“The approved tax levy, the maximum amount of property taxes a unit of government can collect, for the county during 2013 was $3.44 million. For 2014, that amount is $3.52 million, an authorized increase of $79,925 or 2.3 percent. These amounts only represent the county and do not include any city or town, township or school corporation property taxes.

“In addition, shifts in property assessment from one classification to another and tax caps will also determine the amount of property taxes billed. For example, the Indiana Department of Local Governmental Finance has established the value of farmland at $1,760 per acre for taxes payable in 2014 compared to $1,630 per acre for taxes payable in 2013, a 7.9 percent increase in assessed value. This will result in a shift of property taxes from homes, business and rental property to farmland.”

County employees will receive “$500 or 2 percent raises, depending on their current salaries ..... (and) we continue to maintain a Rainy Day Fund with a balance of just over $2 million,” the Versailles resident adds.

“As we look forward, the most challenging financial issue will be the changes the Legislature made with the passage of House Enrolled Act 1006 in 2013. The act reduces some sentences and allows more offenders to be sent to community corrections, probation and forensic diversion.

“According to the Association of Indiana Counties, the lowest levels of offenses would have more than 90 percent of offenders eligible for direct commitment to community corrections programs operated by the county. The AIC estimates the cost to the counties to be between $10 million-$38 million statewide each year without any consideration of potential jail costs. The Legislature has requested $11 million for the fiscal year 2014-15 to assist county costs,” he points out.

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.