County finalizes budget for 2011

PLYMOUTH — Members of the Marshall County Council had their pencils sharpened but they didn’t have to dig too deep to find the cuts necessary to meet budget goals for the coming year.
The projected final budget for Marshall County will be $10,594,073. The Marshall County Commissioners had requested that the Council not cut the budget below $10.3 million so as not to affect the tax rate for the county.
Forecasts for the economy in the coming years had left the Council concerned to hold the line on a budget for the coming year, looking ahead to what they see as even leaner years in the near future. They asked department heads in the county to bring in numbers that were at or below 2010 levels and for the most part they complied.
It didn’t take a lot of cutting to reach goals thanks to that effort but some cuts were required.
The Council held the line on no re-hiring of retiring or resigning em-ployees, denying two new jailers to the sheriff’s budget, denying a new deputy prosecutor, a receptionist for Superior Court II, and compromising with the Clerk Julie Fox on rehiring of her deputy by adding additional funds to a part time employee line item to help the office meet its workload.
The sheriff’s budget took the biggest hit with five new squad cars being reduced to four — a dollar reduction of $21,000. The Council also took out of the special CAGIT (County Adjusted Gross Income Tax) budget line items of $35,000 for a nurse and $50,000 for prisoner care.
There was one addition to the Sheriff’s budget as the Council voted to leave the sheriff’s salary for the incoming sheriff — to be elected in November — at its current level of $76,808 — rather than reduce it to the level it was when current Sheriff Jon VanVactor’s took over, which was $72,395 — as was the case in VanVactor’s budget.
At the end of the day the Council had just two items — $150,000 for the Economic Development Corporation and $20,000 for software — still in the “Rainy Day” budget, and voted to keep salaries at their current level, with a salary ordinance to be officially adopted in October.
Councilman Don Mor-rison echoed the mood of the Council saying that he preferred to “…fall back on (Rainy Day Funds) than take operating expenses out now.”
“A budget of around $10.5 million is very doable,” said Marshall County Auditor Penny Luckenbill. “Last year we had $12 million in revenue. We always underestimate our CAGIT money and other revenues when we start budgeting.
“Realistically I can see us receiving $10.6 million or $10.7 million in the worst case and our fund balances are healthy enough that we could withstand that for a couple of years.”
“In two years we’ve had no raises and we have good employees in the county,” said Councilman Ralph Booker of the final budget. “I really believe that next year we have to find a way to give some sort of remuneration to our employees for their work.”