WARSAW — During a four-hour meeting on Monday night, Aug. 19, members of the Kosciusko County Council, as well as key county government personnel, arduously hashed out details of the county’s extensive budget for 2020. The process will take its next step on Thursday, Aug. 22, when council holds a public hearing for not only its own budget, but also the spending plan for two other county agencies it oversees.
“Thursday is the public hearing that the state requires us to have,” said County Auditor Michelle Puckett. “The County Council will have the public hearing for the solid waste (Kosciusko County Solid Waste Management District) budget because they control their budget and for the North Webster library.” Puckett said the council oversees the budget for those two organizations and will hold hearings for those budgets as well as its own beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.
During the initial budget meeting Monday, Puckett said council members pored over numerous items and requests made by county departments. Some required further thought.
“There were lots of items that they tabled because they wanted a few more days to do some research,” Puckett said. “So, we’ll clean up all those items as well on Thursday.”
All of the county’s procedures are regulated by the Department of Local Government Finance. “What the DLGF requires us to do, is when we advertise our budget, we advertise high, and then we make cuts at budget time,” said Puckett. “That way, we’re advertising high enough to account for every scenario.”
On Monday, the council made its decision regarding pay hikes for county employees.
“Typically, when it comes to wages, we tell people to budget a 10% increase and then we reduce it from there,” Puckett said. “So, what ends up getting adopted is not going to be anywhere close to what is requested. The county council said last night it approved a 2% increase. So, every line item for a wage has that 10% increase that I’m going to bring down to 2%.”
Puckett said she will also adjust other employee-related items such as retirement and Social Security. Cuts were made on Monday regarding numerous pleas for new county workers.
“I think overall, there were about 23 different requests for full-time employees in the 2020 budget and I think last night they probably approved 12 or 13,” she said.
The current budget on which the county is operating was approved last year by the state for $43,574,964. As it stands currently, the proposed 2020 budget is $49,079,714. “That is about a $5.5 million increase,” Puckett said.
Puckett added that the council will give final approval to the 2020 budget at its 7 p.m. regular meeting Sept. 12. The state, considering such things as the county’s adherence to legal requirements and assessed values, will give the county final word on the budget before the end of the year.
“Once the county council adopts it, I have two days to upload it on the state’s website and they can start reviewing it,” Puckett said.