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Posted on Wed. Jul. 16, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

County departments want $1.3 million more to spend next year, but probably won't get it

Also seeking $1.7 million for equipment

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Twelve departments want to spend a total of nearly $1.3 million more in 2015 than they will this year – a request Allen County Council members will review and probably reduce when they begin their annual budget deliberations Wednesday.

In one sense, that challenge will not be as daunting as it seems. Thanks to 2015 revenues that are expected to exceed this year's county budget by nearly $2 million and four departments requesting a total of $97,230 less than they expect to spend this year, council would have plenty of operating cash to approve every requested increase if it chooses to do so.

Still, an additional $1.74 million in capital equipment requests, coupled with the size of some of the departments' proposed day-to-day budget increases, could give council members plenty to discuss – especially if they want to give the county's 1,300 employees a raise next year.

“I don't think we can approve everything. I am in favor of giving at least some raise, and every 1 percent costs $500,000,” Council President Darren Vogt said. “(Department heads) say they want to give raises, but they keep asking for more and more money.”

Sheriff Ken Fries has proposed the largest operating increase, seeking $455,293 – most of which would fund 10 additional civilian confinement officers at the jail. Fries also wants $774,000 in capital spending, mostly for 23 vehicles.

“Our current (jail) staffing levels are not at an optimal level in which to operate a safe environment,” Fries wrote in a letter to council. Furthermore, in light of a revision in the Indiana criminal code, it is expected that there will be an additional demand placed upon the jail.”

Vogt, however, said early estimates that the jail might see as many as 500 additional prisoners have been adjusted downward dramatically.

The city-county emergency communications department is seeking an increase of nearly $400,000 to pay for an equipment maintenance contract. Allen Superior Judge Dan Heath is seeking a $170,000 operating increase and $87,100 in capital for the Juvenile Justice Center, Superior Court wants another $63,820 and the Public Defender's office is seeking an additional $53,483.

The Election Board, meanwhile, is seeking an additional $41,712 in operating and capital spending to offer more early satellite voting locations in 2015.

Nick Jordan, chief deputy auditor, said the additional money expected in 2015 includes a one-time collection of about $400,000 recovered from property owners who claimed deductions to which they were not entitled. That money, he said, could be awarded for capital needs instead of being built into the budget.

Vogt, however, said council may simply set money aside for equipment that could be requested on an as-needed basis. Council could also hold the budget flat and make additional appropriations later if department heads can document the need.

“When you look at our (anticipated) revenues, that can go pretty quickly if we give any kind of a salary increase,” Vogt said.

The county anticipates general fund revenues next year of about $88.72 million, including $50.52 million from property taxes.

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