Most Allen County government departments will have to sharpen their cost-cutting pencils thanks to County Council's refusal Thursday to use its rainy day fund to balance the 2013 budget.
Concerns about the weak economy, higher than expected employee medical costs and other potential financial challenges caused Council to reject Auditor Tera Klutz's suggestion to use $1.5 million from the rainy day fund to produce a balanced budget of about $84.7 million. Instead, most departments will have to trim their 2013 spending requests by about 2.5 percent – and even more if they had requested increases from current spending levels.
Although the Recorder, Assessor, Wayne Township Assessor and Voter Registration offices proposed reducing current budgets by total of $151,375, nine departments – the largest being the Sheriff Department's request for $279,650 - proposed increases totaling $728,651. Those increases, along with about $1.5 million in proposed 2013 equipment purchases, were denied Thursday but could be appealed later. Departments should make additional spending cuts to pay for the equipment, Council agreed.
The largest proposed equipment purchases included the Sheriff's $406,500 request for new cars and computer equipment and a Homeland Security request for $460,000 for warning sirens.
Council also approved salary bonuses of 2 percent for most employees. With employees having to pay 3 percent of their salaries into their retirement funds next year, however – a contribution previously paid by the county – it amounts to a 1 percent cut in pay. Police and probation officers will get raises of about 2.2 percent.
Council on Thursday agreed to provide about $3 million to the county's self-insurance fund to cover higher-than-expected claims. That trend is expected to continue, President Larry Brown said, in part because of two potentially “huge” cases.
The rainy day fund currently contains about $13 million.
Pending the outcome of departmental appeals, final budget approval is scheduled for Oct. 18.