County invests in financial planning

County invests in financial planning

Up to $30,000 will be paid to an Indianapolis accounting firm to help the Bartholomew County Council prepare a five-year comprehensive financial plan.

Council members said they believe this step will be a useful tool as they prepare to discuss both expenditures and revenues during the 2018 budget negotiations in August, commissioner Rick Flohr said.

The agreement, requested by both the council and county auditor Barb Hackman, calls for H.J. Umbaugh & Associates to identify new ways to increase existing revenues, including new taxes.

The accountants also will examine the county’s debt service to identify potential opportunities to restructure or reduce the debt, in order to improve cash flows.

Under the agreement approved Monday by the three county commissioners, Umbaugh also will prepare a cash flow model of all the county’s 20 major funds and prepare revenue projections and fund balances through 2020.

Advocates of long-term financial planning, led by council president Laura DeDomenic, say it’s necessary to set priorities. However, others have said unexpected fluctuations of revenue and expenditures would quickly make such a plan out-of-date.

Such fluctuations are created by changes made by state government, which largely controls the county’s finances, as well as unexpected expenditures such as unfunded mandates.

“It’s not really important whether the commissioners think this is a good or necessary item,” commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said Monday. “The council feels they need it.”

The council has been under increasing pressure to boost revenues. But council members such as Bill Lentz and Jorge Morales have frequently said they could not support a tax hike unless they could tell their constituents every other alternative has been explored.

Last year, the council began pressuring the commissioners to create a new cumulative capital development tax. Due to a regulatory change made at the state level, the county was losing $680,000 by not enacting the tax, DeDomenic said.

This is not the first time the council has attempted to get this type of financial planning information. Last August, it hired the Seymour-based Reedy Financial Group to provide creative ideas that would generate new revenue without raising taxes.

But the contract limited the amount paid to Reedy at no more than $5,000 annually — and the agreement was signed just one week before the council began its 2017 budget process.

Less than three weeks after being hired, a Reedy representative told the council his firm would need additional money, as well as data and time. Since the council was under a timeline to pass a budget, no further requests from Reedy were made.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.