Sheriff And Council Bailed Out of Budget Impasse By Income Tax Windfall

By Jeff Neumeyer

September 25, 2012 Updated Sep 27, 2012 at 5:46 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Higher than anticipated revenue from state income taxes make the numbers add up for Allen County's 2013 budget.

It defuses a contentious dispute between the sheriff and county council over money.

At a meeting inside Citizen Square on Thursday, tentative approval was reached on next year's budget for Allen County Government.

Revenues from two state income taxes, it turns out, will generate about a million dollars more than was first thought, which essentially allowed Sheriff Ken Fries and council to solve their differences over how much money the police agency needs to operate next year without any job layoffs.

Close to 40 county Sheriff's Department employees filled the seats for a county council meeting to address a $1.6 million budget gap.

The sheriff presented about $800,000 in cuts he felt he could grin and bear.

Some members of council felt the sheriff could have done more, but they finally voted to accept the compromise.

The sheriff's personnel still walked out feeling frustration.

Jeff Shimkus/Allen Co. Sheriff's Department: " Until you can walk in our shoes and see what we deal with and see what we're trying to accomplish. It's kind of hard to micromanage, I guess."

County council called for cuts from a variety of departments, reflecting the ongoing economic pressures from permanent property tax caps across the state.

The higher than expected income tax revenues mean the county will not have to dip into its $12 and a half million Rainy Day fund to make ends meet next year.

Still, council members worry about revenue shortages in the years ahead, and are open to bringing in outside consultants to try and find new savings and revenues to help the sheriff's money picture get better.

Tom Harris/(R) Allen County Council 2nd District: " We're trying to figure out ways to contain those costs, possibly look at ways to increase revenues or user fees, people that go into the jail system."

There was no vote taken, but council did discuss the idea of mandating that no new hiring be approved for any departments going forward, unless it is justified first by a council personnel committee.

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