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Part of school gaming money again likely to be withheld

January 09, 2013
Although no vote was taken, the Crawford County Council, meeting Thursday morning at the judicial complex in English, said chances are it again will withhold one of the two annual riverboat gaming disbursements to the Crawford County Community School Corp.

The council, due to the county's tight finances, kept back the second payment in 2012. The amount fluctuates based on business at the Harrison County casino, but averages about $250,000 per disbursement. The December amount withheld, however, was north of $300,000.

The discussion piggybacked on a review of the amount of revenue the county lost due to the so-called circuit breaker provision which caps property tax bills.

Dennie Stroud, a former state finance employee who now works for the county, said the General Fund, the largest portion of the county's budget, saw a decline in 2012 revenue of $233,248, an almost 10.2-percent drop from the previous year.

The discussion prompted Councilman Steve Bartels to ask if the county was going to be in good shape so that it could make the June riverboat gaming disbursement to the school corporation. Stroud said it would.

Bartels, however, noted that, if the council is going to withhold the December 2013 disbursement, like it did in 2012, it should let school corporation officials know as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly.

Stroud said he didn't believe school officials would have a problem with that, particularly if the council allowed them to use the money anyway they see fit like it does with other groups to which it disburses gaming dollars, including the county's incorporated towns and the Crawford County Public Library.

The money given to the school corporation originally was to be used to pay the debt service on the loan taken out to renovate the elementary schools in the 1990s, but the council has allowed a portion to be used for other programs, including capital improvement projects at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School and full-time kindergarten.

Councilman William Breeding agreed that keeping the second disbursement, especially if it was used to make additional payments on the judicial complex loan, makes sense.

"I think, if it's not going to be paid on (school) debt like it was set up to be, we need to pay it on debt in the county," he said.

Jerry Brewer, president of the council, estimated that the extra $250,000 to $300,000 annually would allow the county to retire the judicial complex loan, which has a balance of about $1.6 million, in about four years.

"Once this courthouse debt is paid — and we're way above schedule, and we're going to get it paid — then, if (the school corporation) had a special project when the money's coming in, then that wouldn't be so bad," he said.

"But until this is paid off, we need it worse than they do. The taxpayers are getting more bang for their buck when we pay (the judicial complex loan off)."

In a related move, the council, as it has done in recent years once there is enough money in the Switzerland County riverboat gaming fund, voted to make an advance payment on the judicial complex loan.

The motion to do so, made by Doug McLain and seconded by Breeding, passed 7-0.

In other matters, the council:

•Received an update on the negotiations regarding a lease agreement on the Crawford County 4-H Community Park south of Marengo.

District 3 Commissioner Jim Schultz, who met with Bartels and Terry Allen of the Crawford County 4-H Council to iron out details of the lease, said an appraisal of the actual value of the space to be leased to the county needs to be conducted before an agreement can be approved.

Bartels noted that, although the payment date for the 4-H's USDA loan on the property has passed, the loan isn't in default because of extra payments made in previous years.

•Voted 7-0 to appoint Louie Allstott to the Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District board.

•Approved, 7-0, application of a health department grant.

•Authorized, 7-0, up to $18,000 for the purchase, detailing and maintenance of a vehicle for new coroner Wayne Bullington. The previous coroner had used his personal vehicle.

The county council's next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. at the judicial complex.

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