VALPARAISO | The Porter County Council signed off Tuesday night on a $38.5 million general fund budget for 2014 that includes $1,000 employee pay raises and nine new jailers needed to open the third pod at that facility.
The budget exceeds incoming revenue, which means the county is going to have to dip into income tax proceeds and interest on the money generated from the 2007 sale of the county hospital.
It also required the council to decrease the money set aside for health insurance by $2.5 million, which some members predicted would have to be restored later next year.
Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who opposed the budget along with Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, predicted the pay raises will eventually result in job cuts or a new tax because of the additional cost.
County Council President Bob Poparad, D-at-large, wrapped up a lengthy and heated debate over the budget by predicting the county will eventually need to direct all income tax revenue toward operational costs to make up for shortfalls in property tax revenues.
"We're just kicking the can a little bit down the road," he said.
The commissioners, who resist turning over their control of a majority of that income tax revenue, appeared Tuesday with a few proposals designed to brighten the county's financial picture by increasing revenue.
Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said the group is working on replacing the isolated ditch maintenance fee with a storm water fee charged to everyone in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, proposed turning over a portion of the $159 million in hospital sale proceeds to the Porter County Community Foundation for a guaranteed annual return of 5 percent, which is far more than the county is now earning.
The latter proposal, which raised red flags because it would require the county to relinquish all control over the money, may be taken up during a special meeting as soon as next week.
Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, proposed the county create a bond bank to earn money on a small portion of the hospital proceeds by making loans to other government units.