VALPARAISO | A fractured Porter County Council approved a $38 million budget for 2013 that relies on reserve funding.
By a 4-3 vote, a bipartisan group of members rejected a last-minute proposal from the Porter County Board of Commissioners that would have shifted part of the budget cost from property to income tax revenue.
Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who rejected the proposal along with Jim Polarek, R-4th, Sylvia Graham, D-at large, and Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he agreed in concept with the shift to income taxes.
What concerned Biggs is the shift was not permanent. He and others were also opposed to a part of the idea calling for a $500 across-the-board pay increase for county employees considering the county is already taking in less money than it spends as a result of factors such as tax caps and the economy.
The final budget vote caused Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, a veteran, to yell at his fellow council members for cutting the veteran affairs budget by $6,000.
Moments after Whitten walked out of the meeting, the six remaining members unanimously agreed to return the veterans money to the budget.
The council also agreed to continue using a portion of the $12 million in interest money from the sale of the county hospital to fund part of the money paid each year to Opportunity Enterprises, Family and Youth Services Bureau and Porter County Aging and Community Services Inc.
The use of hospital interest money was part of the alternative budget proposal pitched by Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, and County Council members Whitten, Laura Blaney, D-at large, and Karen Conover, R-3rd.
The alternative proposal, which was provided to the other council members two hours before Monday's meeting, called for $2.46 million in budget cuts and a $2.5 million contribution of local income tax revenues. The commissioners have control over coming up with specific uses for the income tax revenue, and the council is charged with granting final approval.
After the alternative budget plan was rejected, Evans said he would not be proposing to use any of the income tax revenue to fund the final budget, setting up the potential for a stalemate over future proposals for the funding.