This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Budget meetings continued

On Wednesday morning I arrived at the County Council meeting about twenty minutes after it began as the Superior Court judge was finishing his presentation. The Recorder had a short presentation. She was followed by the public defender who noted that the state now mandates that family law cases have counsel, so the case load of public defenders has increased. However, the county gets 40% of the salary back from the state, so it is only a 60% unfunded mandate.

The Clerk of Court talked about the 64 voting machines that the county has. She would like to have them updated with new software, motherboard, and color screen. The cost would be about $90,000 and should extend the life of the machines another ten years. Weed Control said that it had been a bad year--the flooding was bad for crops but good for weeds. The weeds they try to control include marijuana, Palmer weed (which is spreading), ragweed, and Canadian thistle.

The Highway Department has a new road grinder and the head of the department explained how it could improve the base of the road if a layer of stone were put on the road before grinding. The grinder would push the stone on top down, improving the base of the road. Two layers of chip and seal would then surface the road at about half the cost of blacktopping it. Asked about county bridges, he said that Jasper County bridges are in better shape than the bridges in most other Indiana counties.

Kendall Culp presented the Commissioner's budget, which includes many different accounts. One reduction that he was very happy to report was the annual subsidy to the county hospital. With its acquisition by Franciscan Alliance, an expenditure of over $100,000 will not be in the 2016 budget. He warned that the 2017 budget may have a big increase. The county has very generous health-care benefits, something that helps retain employees. Under Obamacare they are considered generous enough to qualify for the so-called Cadillac Tax, which will cost the County about $400,000. (Checking the Internet, we may have an extra year--it apparently does not take effect until 2018.)

Included in the Commissioner's budget was money for Jasper County Community Services. The head of that agency made a presentation and a request for more funding. She noted that the organization now has three senior citizen centers with a new one opened in Remington. They have 19 employees (6 full-time and 13 part-time) and provide about 19,000 meals a year. Following were short presentations by the Community Corrections, the Coroner (55 bodies through the morgue so far this year), and the Treasurer's Office. Judge Potter presented budget requests for the Circuit Court and probation. Probation officers' salaries are set by the state. There either have been or there are projected to be more than 100 child abuse and neglect cases this year, up significantly from last year. Many of them are connected to drug use.

The morning concluded with Veterans Affairs and the Surveyor's office. Part of DeMotte has been classified as a flood plain, increasing costs for those affected. The town of DeMotte and the Surveyor are trying to change the drainage so that that classification can be changed to not in the flood plain.

The Council quit for the morning and went to lunch. They had more to hear in the afternoon, but I had had enough for one day and went home to take a nap.

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