Thursday, September 5, 2013

Times Reports Lake County Starts "New Math" of 2014 Budget

From the Northwest Indiana Times:

Lake County's budget officials started playing with the numbers Wednesday as they confronted the challenges of managing government spending in the new era of a local income tax.

The Lake County Council used its first 2014 budget workshop to vaporize tens of millions of dollars in requests for new money by other county and township officials when they rolled back spending goals to this year's budget.

They adopted the assumption that county property owners will pay nearly 85 percent of the maximum tax levy permitted under law.

They then turned their back on new borrowing to balance the budget.

Last year, the council authorized $15 million in loans to make up for property tax revenue shortfalls. This year it passed a personal income tax on all county residents and workers, which will generate at least $15 million next year for county government alone and much more in 2015. Tax collection doesn't begin until next month.

They debated more than $23 million in spending for an array of initiatives, including hiring as many as 65 corrections officers to satisfy a mandate set by the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division, shoring up the county's health insurance and pensions plans, repairing county highway bridges and drainage ditches, hiring probation officers, pay police and guards overtime as well as set aside money for increased fuel costs and legal services.