Who benefits? County decision-making

decision making The Challenge.  Brown County has one-party monopoly (Republican) on political power.  This results in decisions that can benefit  the few with little to no consideration on the best interests of ALL county residents.  In essence, less than a dozen people can make decisions that effect everyone.  Little chance of repercussions at the ballot box for poor decisions. Good Things. County has sustained development of a County Comprehensive Financial Plan. It It appears the new ambulance contract is less expensive with less risk than the previous contract.  There is more interest expressed by the Commissioners for development and maintenance of a Capital Improvement Plan to better manage infrastructure related costs. Road Paving can also be considered a positive but the lack of a published plan is frustrating for citizens. Tax Policy.  Given the influx of retirees and people that could work from home, or chose to live in the county but commute to other counties for the better paying jobs, the decision was made by the county council to rely on income tax increases (vice property) to fund spending. The income tax rate doubled in 10 years and the county recently shifted to relying on increases in property taxes.  (The county is primarily funded by income and property taxes).
  • Brown County has the 4th highest debt per capita in the State (See Debt Comparison Report, Indiana Gateway).
  • On the income tax rate, Brown County among the highest.
  • Brown County does have one of the lowest property tax rates that is expected to continually increase.
Music Center. A $12.5 million+ expense for a  government owned and operated music venue. This project was driven by less than a dozen people.  Commissioner Biddle recently provided a $239K subsidy for “rent” — no details on what exactly county taxpayers received in services.  The Council approved the payment but were caught by surprise by the last minute request. No public meetings held to discuss the subsidy. Indiana Hill Road. Commissioners approved closing the crossing without notifying ANY of the residents effected and allowing for public input.   Hard to believe that negotiation with the Railroad would not have resulted in mitigating needed risks.  What were the alternatives considered? Overlook – Clear-Cut.  Commissioner Biddle led the effort to conduct minor logging on the western side of the Overlook on 135 to allow for better views.  A project that was well received by the community.  She provided no oversight on the project to clear the view on the eastern side of the overlook that resulted in a devastation.  Salt Creek Trail.  The commitment by the commissioners at the time for this project was no county tax money would be used nor would eminent domain. Commissioner Biddle was a commissioner when the commissioners voted to accept state money for this project. This granted the “State” the right to acquire property through the threat of eminent domain.  Commissioner Biddle also led efforts to acquire “free bridges” without involving the community on how well these bridges fit within the historical culture and aesthetics of the county.  The bridges were not “free” – state taxpayer money used to repair, paint and re-locate. Perpetual loans.  County renews a 2-3 million dollar loan ever 2-3 years to fund infrastructure projects and overspending that serves as a relatively expensive line of credit. Why not just make the tax increase (used to payoff the loan) permanent?
  • The state has limits on tax increases.  Does a loan supplement the budget when we have reached our spending limit?
Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) and Bean Blossom Sewer Project.  The BCRSD has spent $220,000 of the $270K provided by the county council to support a new plant in Bean Blossom.  The project started in June 2018. No land has been acquired and less expensive options have been identified. Septic Ordinance.  A lack of justification for supporting county unique requirements. The two commissioners that voted for this ordinance (Biddle, Braden) refused to address citizens comments and questions.  commissioner Pittman wrote two Letters in the Democrat opposing the ordinance. Bigoted and racist post on Facebook by the local Republican Party.  This issued was covered in the Brown County Democrat  — “Post on GOP Facebook page prompts questions” by Sara Clifford.  Community reaction in Letters to the Editor. Health Insurance.  County Health insurance is self-insured and has resulted in higher costs and risks. Despite attempts to improve, costs have  continually exceeded budget. In contrast, Brown County Schools adopted a different model that results in savings and less risk. The county recently approved a three year contract for the high risk and cost option. Ambulance Contract. After years of increasing costs, a new contract resulted in lowering cost without a loss of service.  Time will tell if costs continue to be stable. READI Grant. Stay tuned. 60% of funding for “projects” from the private sector, 20% from the county, 20% from the State (READI).

Elections.

Jun 5, 2020. BREAKING: 122 local ballots won’t count; they are evidence  By  –

Sep 25, 2018. Special prosecutor to investigate election complaints By Sara Clifford

  • A special prosecutor from Jackson County has been appointed to investigate allegations that a county commissioner candidate and a member of the Brown County Election Board violated an election law during the May primary.
  • Biddle told the election board that the inspector had car trouble and she was making sure he had a way back to the courthouse that night. She also said that she had entered the polling place from the side and she didn’t see the first set of prohibition signs that were further from the building. If she had seen them, she wouldn’t have crossed them, she told the board.

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