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Bartholomew County Council gives initial approval to 2015 budget

Bartholomew County employees and elected officials would get a two-percent raise for 2015 under a budget proposed by the County Council.

The council put the finishing touches on its budget proposal during a meeting Wednesday night at the County Government Office Building on Third Street. Council President Ryan Lauer says this was one of the most difficult budgets the council has ever had to assemble. He said that it normally takes about three days to assemble a budget. The proposed 2015 budget took nearly a week.

The total budget for county general funds came in at $17,103,614, not counting pay increases. Department heads had asked for $19,311,217.     

Lauer says that every department was forced to make cuts. The reason, says Lauer, is massive increases in expenses. He said there were a number of expensive claims on the county's health insurance trust fund, which is self-funded. Expenses for the public retirement fund, which pays pensions for former county employees, were up seven percent over the previous year.

The hit to the county's insurance trust fund is resulting in "substantial increases" for county employees, said Lauer. He said that county employees will have to pay an additional 1.5 percent of their income, as well as larger deductibles in 2015. While he did not have the exact figures at hand, Lauer said deductibles will likely double for many employees. He went on to say that in order to "shore up" the health insurance trust fund, the county will need approximately $1 million in county adjusted gross income tax (CAGIT) funds.  

County employees may consider themselves fortunate to be receiving a two-percent pay increase. Near the end of discussions Tuesday night, there was about $110,000 left to put towards pay raises. That would have been enough to provide one-percent pay increases. Council member Jorge Morales was adamant that one-percent is not enough. He said that the county needs to have parity with the city of Columbus, which is also providing two-percent raises. Councilman Bill Lentz agreed, arguing that county employees will be losing about two-percent of their income to insurance rate hikes and other expenses. With that, the council made adjustments to the Sheriff's Department budget and will request adjustments from the County Commissioners in order to make the raises possible. Council member Chris Ogle indicated that he has had discussions with all three commissioners and he believes that the body will accommodate the council's request. The raises will be automatic for all but state and appointed employees.

The council will meet with the commissioners, as well as any department heads who are concerned about their budgets, next week. A vote to give final approval to the budget will take place after.

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 9:41:20 PM

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