5 percent raise sought for county employees

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's budget time once again for Putnam County government. And once again, the county council is warning employees that cuts must be made.

Council members Don Walton, Richard Lyon, Keith Berry, Darrel Thomas, Mitch Proctor, Larry Parker and Jay Fogle met for an all-day session Monday where they learned that the total projected budget for 2007 needs to be reduced by $232,000 in order to put it below the predicted tax levy.

In a nut shell, the various county departments are asking for a combined total of $152,000 in raises, $120,000 in new employees, $61,000 in part-time salaries, $80,000 in new equipment and software and $500,000 in miscellaneous expenses. All of these items are being requested for the 2007 budget.

While council members gave "preliminary approval" to a majority of the various department budgets presented to them on Monday, they warned that Tuesday could be a different story, primarily as it relates to employee raises and requests for additional employees.

As it now stands, all of the budgets have been calculated to include, across-the-board, 5 percent raises for county employees next year. This comes after two years without raises.

In addition, several departments are asking the council to approve money for additional personnel to help with added workload.

Additional staff, be it full-time or part-time, or changes in part-time to full-time status, is being sought in several offices, including superior court, public defender, circuit court, real estate department, county co-op extension, Greencastle Township assessor's office and health department.

Near the end of their meeting Monday, council members said that while they would like to give employees a 5 percent increase in salary and while they recognize the need for additional employees, the need to cut the budget by $232,000 is foremost in their minds.

Council President Mitch Proctor kept reiterating throughout the day that Tuesday would be the day when the council would really get down to discussing the potential for raises and new employees. That's also when the cuts will be made.

On Monday, the council reviewed the following budgets for 2007 and voted to approve them on a preliminary basis, with the added note that any potential raises or new employees would be decided Tuesday afternoon:

-- Superior Court, $147,325;

-- Circuit Court, $355,360;

-- Adult Probation, $108,028;

-- Adult Probation-User's Fee, $127,871;

-- Juvenile Probation, $23,948;

-- Public Defender A, $108,063;

-- Public Defender B, $90,950;

-- Public Defender A, $10,000;

-- SATP, $116, 326;

-- Treasurer, $164,258;

-- Clerk of Circuit Court, $254,989;

-- Election, $79,351;

-- Auditor, $214,632;

-- Plat Book, $12,037;

-- Recorder, $58,679;

-- Recorder's Perpetuation, $39,233;

-- Sheriff, $988,324;

-- Jail, $1,121,704;

-- County Corrections, $22,522;

-- Surveyor, $36,742;

-- Surveyor Corner Perpetuation, $23,050;

-- Coroner, $50,351;

-- Assessor, $50,734;

-- Real Estate Dept., $309,651;

-- Prosecutor, $150,772;

-- Pretrial Diversion, $39,817;

-- Prosecutor Title IVD Unappropriated, $11,318;

-- Title IVD Office, $17,000;

-- Title IVD Office, $140,914;

-- County Co-Op Extension, $153,352;

-- Veterans Office, $25,993;

-- Greencastle Twp. Assessor, $49,255;

-- Township Assessors/Deputies, $56,016;

-- Cemetery, $11,600; and

-- County Council, $39,637.

In matters of the superior court, Judge Robert Lowe told the council that due to case load, he has requested an additional employee for next year. He said his staff handled 7,200 cases last year.

"My staff is just getting swamped," Lowe said.

In related matters, the council gave approval to move ahead with forming a committee to discuss the possibility of adding a new court to Putnam County to help with the current case load of both superior and circuit courts.

Meanwhile, Judge Matt Headley told the council that he has requested the creation of two separate public defender funds for next year -- one to handle superior court cases and the other to handle circuit court cases.

He said that state law -- of which Putnam County is currently in violation -- dictates that the two must be in different physical locations. The budget, if approved by the council, would include $10,000 in start-up costs for the new public defender's office, plus salary increases for current employees and an additional public defenders position.

In the jail budget, Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie is requesting the addition of $10,000 to install surveillance cameras in the jail, which he says are required for the county to house Dept. of Correction inmates, and $15,000 for repairs and maintenance of the jail facility.

In the end, council members ended their day with several budgets still to discuss Tuesday morning, to be followed by discussions about salaries and requests for additional employees in the afternoon.

Budgets that are scheduled for discussion Tuesday include health department, county commissioners, county home, plan commission, aviation, and E911.

The council is expected to approve the budget on first reading by the end of the day Tuesday, to be followed by a second and final reading on Sept. 8.

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