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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Council meetings, short and long

The Rensselaer City Council met for a very short meeting on Monday night. They opened by approving the closure of a bit of Harrison Street for the Eagles fish fry on Sept 29. Then they opened a public hearing on the budget. I was the only one in the room whose name had not been called with the roll call. I had nothing to say so the public hearing closed and the Council passed the budget.

There were several other budget items. They approved an ordinance that reduced appropriations for this yeas by $213,661 to help fund next year's budget. They also approved three transfers of funds. The largest was for the Park Department to be used to paint the LaRue Pool.

The gas tracker for September will be a 3.5¢ increase per hundred cubic feet. The Project Coordinator has been working on the grant proposal for a Community Crossings, the state program for local road improvement. He also noted that the State had been paving at the Mt Calvary/US 231 intersection. There were a few other items of limited public interest.

On Wednesday City workers were removing the playground equipment just to the north of Staddon Field.
The slide was next.

Unlike the City Council meeting, Tuesday's Jasper County Council meeting, held a week earlier than usual, was very long. The main order of business was passing the budget. The Chairman read the budget, which you can find here.

Next up was a report from Umbaugh. The spokeswoman noted that the 2019 income tax revenue will be minimally less than the previous year, but there is a two year lag in determining the numbers, so what will be given to the County in 2019 is based on what was collected in 2017. The County has had an 18% growth in assessed valuation since 2010. The amount of money coming to the County from the increase gas tax is less than anticipated because the legislature took a bunch of the money back for State use at the last session. The projections that spokeswoman presented all looked dismal, but were based on the assumption that the County would spend all the money it appropriates. The County, however, has a history of appropriating more money than it spends.

The Council then reviewed and approved budgets of four public groups that are not under its direct control. First was the Rensselaer Central School Corporation. They are reclassifying some items in their budget, so it is hard to compare next year's budget with this year's. Over the past ten years the school corporation has had a steady decline in enrollment but early indications are that this year enrollment may hold steady. The Board prepared the budget expecting a drop of about 20 students. The HVAC system at Van Rensselaer may need to be replaced soon. It is nearing end of life.

The Airport Authority kept is operating budget flat. May 10 will be the next Aviation Career Day. This year it attracted about 1000 students.

The Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District receives no tax funding but is entirely funded from tipping fees from landfills in White and Newton Counties. It serves six counties and because Jasper has the largest assessed valuation, Jasper is the county that approves its budget. It will have a hazardous waste collection at the Jasper County Highway garage on the morning of September 22.

The Iroquois River Conservancy kept its budget the same. In addition to keeping the river free from downed trees, it also works to keep farm chemicals out of the river.

The Sheriff then repeated his plea for change in the pension plan that he had earlier given to the Commissioners. At present pension accumulation stops at 20 years of service and the result is that the most a retiree can get is 50% of salary as a pension. This gives deputies an incentive to quit when they reach 20 years and training costs for new deputies are high. Nothing was done at this meeting, but the issue will be back on the agenda. At the very end of the meeting, when most people had left and the floor was open to public comments, Adam Alson who before moving back to Jasper County had worked at a large NY bank, gave a statement that noted that the pension had been fully funded in 2008. Today it is only 68% funded. The reason for the shortfall is that the rate of return on the assets in the fund has been extremely low, about 1%, while the expected rate of return was about 6%. Many other defined-benefit pension funds have suffered from assuming a too-high rate of return. He noted that increasing the accumulation years to 26 will substantially increase the unfunded liabilities of the plan and this will affect the County's balance sheet.

The Coroner was back again asking for an additional appropriation for autopsies. This year there have been an unusually large number of autopsies. Part of the increase comes from the State requiring more autopsies in an effort to get a handle on the opioid problem.

The Council approved a few other additional appropriations before it adjourned.

A couple weeks ago I took a picture of a soybean field with gold leaves. The same field has lost its leaves.
Work moving dirt continues at the construction site for the proposed assisted living apartments.

Finally, I saw a post and picture on Facebook announcing that Benton County was now home to the largest on-land wind turbine in the Western Hemisphere with a picture, but post has disappeared. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very informative post. Will continue my daily visits to Rensselaer Adventures.