VALPARAISO | Porter County officials are going to have to rely more on local income tax revenue and the interest money generated from the sale of the county hospital to keep operations going in 2014 and beyond.
That was the conclusion of a two-hour discussion Thursday night during a joint session of the County Council and county commissioners that served to kick off this year's budget sessions.
"There's not a whole lot of taters in the sack," County Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at large, said during a jovial portion of the often-heated meeting.
The session shined light on the many financial challenges facing the county, including a 5 percent projected increase in employee health insurance costs next year, a shortage in E-911 funding, the need to open the third pod at the jail to relieve overcrowding and the costly drainage projects identified in a countywide study.
While the council and commissioners seemed in agreement on the need to tap into the hospital interest money while protecting the principal, the suggestion of dipping more deeply into income tax revenue for operational needs triggered a defensive reaction by the commissioners. They traditionally have maintained greater control over those funds.
Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, has offered $2 million of the income tax revenue to cover the increased medical care costs for inmates at the jail and the bill for E-911.
But at least some council members voiced interest in gaining control over more of those revenues.
Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said if the council takes control over more income tax revenue, the commissioners need to be given the funding necessary to do their jobs.
Evans pitched the idea of doing away with the property tax relief provided by the local income tax and using that money to help fund county government.
The group fell silent Thursday night when Porter County Council President Bob Poparad, D-at large, challenged his peers to say where cuts should be made in the various department budgets that will be brought before them over the next couple of weeks.
"I want to know where we're cutting," he said.