Only three weeks ago Bartholomew County Commissioner President Larry Kleinhenz said county leaders were worried sick that property taxes might go up. Much of the concern dealt with the effects of a new funding formula.
But some worries were alleviated last week at the conclusion of the Sept. 4 Bartholomew County Council meeting. While the county auditor did not have exact figures at that time, Barb Hackman did say the numbers she had seen to date on gross assessed valuation of property were “much, much better” than she had anticipated.
“I think it’s great news,” said County Council President Bill Lentz. “Our big concern was that if those numbers dropped, there would be a tax increase and we wouldn’t be able to help the employees or keep the county running at the high level it is. But since those AV numbers are coming up, we’ll be able to sustain adequate service.”
Council members will have the first reading of their preliminary 2013 budget and salary ordinance at 6 tonight in their chambers on the fourth floor of the Bartholomew County Governmental Office Building. A public hearing will be conducted before the first-reading vote.
The $21.74 million budget includes a 2.5 percent raise for employees. In addition, the council reached a consensus last week to restore $48,974 that had been cut from next year’s spending plan.
That money includes general fund expenditures that will allow utility funds for county parks, as well as pay raises for third-shift sheriff’s deputies, County Attorney Grant Tucker and public defenders.
A $25 raise for poll workers that will come from a different fund also was approved in principle.
But nothing will be finalized until the second and final reading of the 2013 budget on Oct. 9.
“It is subject to change,” Lentz said. “If something major happens between the first and second reading, we’ll probably have to adjust our budgets.”
Hackman said Monday that gross property valuations will not be available by the time the council meets. She added that while she will not release unconfirmed or speculative figures, she’s optimistic that the gross assessed values will be completed by the end of this week.
The compilation of those values had been delayed because of complex reassessment processes this year.
But even if gross property values stay the same or go up, adjustments will have to be factored in before certified assessed property values can be established. They include deductions, exemptions, abatements, appeals, new construction and tax-increment financing.
“When you don’t have certified assessed values, you’re not sure whether your assessed values are going to affect your tax rate,” Hackman said.
The certified 2013 budget must be submitted to the state no later than Nov. 1. The county expects to have the state-certified budget back, as well as final tax rates, no later than Feb. 15.
Besides the first reading of the preliminary budget, council members will tackle a lengthy agenda tonight. The first reading of the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District budget will be conducted, followed by a public hearing.
Four separate county departments are requesting more than $53,000 combined in additional appropriations. A raise for members of the Bartholomew County Election Board will be sought by County Clerk Tami Hines.
Bartholomew County Highway Department Highway Engineer Danny Hollander will ask for a transfer of funds totaling more than $93,000.
The council also will discuss establishing a Bartholomew County Redevelopment Commission, as well as talk about the future of the aging Bartholomew County Annex Building near State and Pence streets.
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