VALPARAISO | Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, last week kicked off what promises to be a challenging budgeting period by offering an olive-branch over the divide between his board and the County Council.
Evans said the Board of Commissioners are willing to help ease the council's budget duties by directing local income tax revenue next year to cover the increased medical costs at the jail and the bill for E-911.
While the offer has been well received, Porter County Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at-large, said the offer is not enough to address many long-term challenges facing the county.
The council faces funding solutions for overcrowding at the jail, employee health insurance costs and big tickets items like a new animal shelter along with an education and administration center for the park department at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Liberty Township.
"What we put in place with this budget will not go away in the next (budget) cycle," said County Council Vice President Karen Conover, R-3rd.
The council's workshops for the 2014 budget kick off with a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday and continue on various days through final reading Oct. 2.
Conover said she is approaching the budget sessions with an open mind to alternative ways of addressing the larger challenges. This includes exploring the possibility of 12-hour shifts at the jail versus hiring nine new jailers in order to gain the staffing needed to open the third pod to relieve overcrowding.
Porter County Council President Bob Poparad, D-at-large, said the county has been notified it will be collecting a little less revenue next year.
He said the income tax money offered by the commissioners is a step in the right direction.