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Commissioners OK cuts to county offices


Personnel reductions won't take effect until Aug. 1


March 19, 2008
Despite several county employees in the audience, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday voted 3-0, with little dissent, to adopt several recommendations offered by a five-member committed appointed to find ways to save county government dollars.

Following a public reading of the recommendations, which had been slightly tailored from an earlier meeting, District 3 Commissioner James Schultz made a motion to approve the committee's recommendations.

"I'll second the motion reluctantly, but it's something that has to be done," District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore said.

The commissioners in February approved the committee's first set of recommendations, which are to save the 2008 budget $440,000.

The latest approved recommendations call for several county offices to cut spending by thousands of dollars, reductions that realistically can only be made by eliminating personnel. The hardest hit was the Auditor's Office, which must reduce its budget by $60,000, roughly equivalent to two full-time positions.

The bi-partisan committee —comprised of Commissioner Larry Bye, Circuit Judge K. Lynn Lopp, county councilmen Daniel Crecelius and Joey Robinson and Milltown resident Bill Byrd — recommended that no personnel adjustments occur until Aug. 1. The commissioners agreed.

However, the approved recommendations included more than just spending cuts in the various county offices. Perhaps the biggest change, also to take effect in August, is the elimination of compensation time for the Emergency Services, Dispatch, Jail and Sheriff's departments. Personnel in those departments will instead receive time-and-a-half overtime pay for each hour worked over 40 hours during a week.

Compensation time accumulated before August will not be lost, however, and affected employees will be paid for any remaining hours by the end of 2008.

The change is expected to save the county money, as well as make scheduling much easier, by reducing the need for part-time help to work when full-time employees take their comp time.

The commissioners encouraged department heads to monitor their employees' comp time so the county council can make accurate projections when adopting the 2009 budget, which will have to include funding for overtime, as well as ensure that employees don't accrue an exorbitant amount between now and August.

"I cannot stress enough how important it is for the department heads to monitor this comp time because each of the department heads will be held accountable," Bye said.

Not all of the recommendations were approved. Those rejected included increasing the employee contribution for health insurance from 13-1/2 percent to 15 percent and eliminating county-funded vision and life insurance. The commissioners said health insurance will be reviewed later.

In addition, the commissioners, after talking with Sheriff Tim Wilkerson, chose not to use select inmates at the Crawford County Jail for inside and outside duties at the Crawford County Judicial Complex. Wilkerson said Indiana Department of Correction offenders, who make up the majority of the jail population, cannot leave the building without a corrections officer and would pose a flight risk.

The commissioners also rejected the committee's suggestion to place the Dispatch Office under the Emergency Management Agency. EMA Director Kent Barrow said Dispatch, which currently is under the Sheriff's Department, would be too big of a responsibility for his one-person office. Plus, Wilkerson told some of the commissioners prior to the meeting that he doesn't have a problem with keeping it under his office.

The Crawford County Council two days earlier voted 6-0 (Councilman Jim Taylor was absent) at its regular meeting to endorse the recommendations as presented by the committee.

Last week's votes come after the council and commissioners each voted on Feb. 28 to enact the committee's first set of recommendations to cut spending by $440,000. Those actions included:

•Withdrawing $250,000 of riverboat gaming revenue the county shares with the Crawford County Community School Corp. for reduction of the corporation's debt service tax rate.

•Withdrawing $50,000 of riverboat gaming revenue the county gives to the Crawford County Highway Department. (These dollars are not the same gaming funds given to the highway department for road maintenance.)

•Making an allocation of $140,000 from Orange County gaming funds the county receives to the county budget.

Approved cost-saving recommendations

The Crawford County Board of Commissioners Thursday approved several recommendations made by a five-person bi-partisan committee — Milltown resident Bill Byrd, District 1 Commissioner Larry Bye, Circuit Judge K. Lynn Lopp and county councilmen Daniel Crecelius and Joey Robinson — appointed to find ways to strengthen Crawford County's finances.

The recommendations, endorsed by the Crawford County Council two days earlier, approved include:

•Employee vacancies will not be filled without express approval of the commissioners and funding by the council. Elected officials must furnish valid reasons why the vacancy cannot be filled with a part-time or temporary employee.

•No personnel terminations resulting from this review until Aug. 1, 2008.

•Study networking computers.

•Establish a Crisis Fund using 10 percent a year from Orange County gaming funds. The interest return could be used, but the principal should not be touched unless a real crisis arises. If this happens, the fund level should be restored as soon as possible. Any distribution is to be recommended by the commissioners and approved by the council.

•Commissary and other funds collected and disbursed inside the courthouse will be reported to the commissioners and county council quarterly.

•Compensation time for the Emergency Services, Dispatch, Jail and Sheriff's departments to be eliminated and accumulated time paid by the end of 2008. Management will be held accountable to maintain adequate staff to satisfy the requirements of the department. Each department is to prepare an overtime report each month for the commissioners' review.

•Consolidate equipment maintenance contracts and other purchases. This is to be the responsibility of one person.

•Do not permit departments to have unreported funds.

•Consider requiring the Crawford County Soil and Water Conservation District to contribute funds for operations costs.

•Require the Ambulance Service, Highway Department, towns, fire departments and Crawford County Community School Corporation report to the commissioners and county council how they have spent the riverboat gaming dollars the county has shared with them.

•Have community service workers perform duties at the Crawford County Judicial Complex, such as outside cosmetics, inside cleaning and other maintenance that is secure and falls within their abilities.

•Consider bidding for fuel for the Ambulance Service, or possibly having fuel tanks on site.

•Consider hiring a full-time director for the Ambulance Service or contracting the service.

•Develop protocols within the Dispatch Office to reduce unnecessary runs by volunteer fire departments, the Sheriff's Department, the Ambulance Service, etc.

•Review the benefits of the Veterans Officer.

•Use a "floater" employee in the courthouse between departments during high volume times.

•Conduct a full review of health benefits in all departments in 2009.

The commissioners also approved the following spending reductions in the following offices:

•Jail and Sheriff, $50,000.

•Assessor, $30,000.

•Auditor, $60,000.

•Clerk, $30,000.

•Cooperative Extension, $5,000.

•Circuit Court and Probation, $30,000.

•Prosecuting Attorney, $6,000.

•Recorder, $30,000.

•Health Department, $22,000.

To offset Crawford County's estimated $500,000 shortfall for 2008, the commissioners and county council on Feb. 28 approved the following to take effect immediately:

•Withdraw $250,000 of riverboat gaming money the county shares with the Crawford County Community School Corp. for debt service reduction.

•Withhold the $50,000 of riverboat gaming money the county shares with the Crawford County Highway Department. (These dollars are not the same gaming funds given to the highway department for road maintenance.)

•Make an allocation of $140,000 from Orange County gaming funds the county receives to the county budget.

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Schuler Bauer
Barbara Shaw
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