October 24, 2013

Miami Co. looks at cutting budget

Reductions would help fund 2 percent raise.

by Carson Gerber
For the Pharos-Tribune

---- — PERU — Miami County officials are looking to trim $150,000 from the county’s 2014 budget to help pay for a 2 percent pay raise for all county employees and prepare for possible state-mandated budget cuts.

The Miami County Council last week approved the 2014 budget, which includes the salary increase, but asked department heads to find areas where they could reduce spending to help pay for the raise.

The increase will cost the county in total an additional $119,000. The pay raise increases the county’s general fund by around $94,000.

The council approved next year’s general fund budget at $7.29 million — a $317,000 increase over this year’s budget.

Council president Ralph Duckwall said if department heads don’t cut enough money out of their 2014 budgets, the council may revoke the pay raise later this year.

“We can handle some raises, but we’re not going to be able to afford everything in the budget and pay raises at the same time,” he said last month.

Employees last year received a 3 percent pay raise that cost the county more than $150,000 in additional salary and wages.

Duckwall said the county is waiting to see specific numbers on how much the county will bring in next year in local taxes, which will give officials a better idea about the feasibility of the wage increases.

But some department heads said reducing spending in their budgets isn’t going to be easy.Cliff Gardner, director of the county’s 911 central dispatch, said his department can’t even afford to buy a new paper shredder, which hasn’t worked for years, or replace 10-year-old radios that barely function.

“I don’t know where I can really make any more cuts,” he said Monday during a county commissioners meeting.

Duckwall said cutting the budget isn’t just about funding the pay raise. He said the county isn’t bringing in enough revenue.

“It may not happen this year … but we’re going to be forced to look at the budget,” he said Monday. “Unless Boeing or some other company comes into the county and builds a huge factory, we’re just not getting the growth we need right now to pay all the bills.”

Besides cutting departmental spending, Duckwall suggested other ways the county might save money, including reducing part-time help, reviewing previous raises for bailiffs and reducing or eliminating department maintenance budgets.

The commissioners will meet with department heads over the next four weeks to discuss possible budget cuts and recommend ways to reduce the budget at next month’s council meeting.

“We’ve gotten away from what is essential in government and what is wanted,” said Commissioner Josh Francis Monday. “That’s our problem. We’re here to provide the essential needs of government, not make it easy for everybody. We need to look hard at the budget, and there aren’t going to be any easy decisions, but they need to be made.”