EDITORIAL: Budget cuts should lead to restructuring

2014-02-11T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Budget cuts should lead to restructuring nwitimes.com
February 11, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski eliminated one-fourth of his staff to meet his office's share of the burden for getting the county's budget balanced. That's a severe cut.

The county has a huge nest egg from the sale of Porter Hospital in 2007, but that should not be tapped for routine government operations.

Wichlinski's action last week came after the County Council asked department heads to reduce spending. This year's budget calls for spending $5 million to $8 million more than estimated revenues. That's not sustainable, nor is it responsible.

Eliminating five positions in the auditor's office, reducing the staff to 15, will save the county an estimated $250,000.

We understand the hardship this decision will cause the affected employees.

Taking away people's jobs is not easy, but Wichlinski is doing what the county needs now. Spending must be cut.

The council gave department heads a choice — make the cuts or the council will do it anyway, and perhaps not in a way the department heads prefer.

"The Camelot years are over," Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said Jan. 28.

But a new era of government efficiency should be in the offing.

"We're going to cross-train the staff," Wichlinski said. He did away with the chief of staff and chief deputy titles, and he eliminated the distinctions between the various divisions. Good for him.

That should happen on a broader scale, streamlining county government to combine back-shop financial offices with cross-trained workers to improve the workflow in those offices.

Why elect a separate recorder, auditor, treasurer and assessor? Bring all these bookkeeping operations into one agency, the same as with municipal government. The bipartisan Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform made that recommendation years ago.

Forward-thinking Porter County officials should press for this kind of consolidation for their county.

Don't just save money through this budget-cutting exercise. Focus on ultimately making government more efficient in the process.

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