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County Council Meeting Notes, Nov 28, 2022

County Council Meeting Notes, Nov 28, 2022.

County Council Agenda November 28, 2022

Final Budget for 2023.  Council will need another meeting to approve final changes.

ARPA – Employee Bonuses. The Commissioners (Biddle) provided 700K of ARPA funds to increase the pay of “essential employees” – those that worked with the public during Covid. No analysis on the effects of such a policy were discussed but problems became apparent during the development of the 2023 budget.

The Biddle plan was to increase the hourly pay by $2.00 an hour over a three-year period providing employees with about 12K.  During the budget hearings, those receiving the extra pay were not going to get the 3% cost of living increase which had adverse impacts on the salary ordinance (pay system). Also, the cost of employment taxes and benefits not covered by ARPA would have increased costs to the taxpayers. The council developed a plan to provide bonuses in 2022.  The changes by the Feds on ARPA funds allows for the change.  In summary:  7K for essential employees, 2K for everyone else, different process for the 5 employees at the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) due to different pay-related processes  Commissioners to review/approve the changes at their Dec 7 ,2022 meeting.

Over Budget.  The prosecutor asked for an additionlal 8K to cover court related costs (expert witness – forensic pathologist) and the election board asked for an additional 8,610.03/ This included $7,100 to cover legal expenses associated with a request to retain voting records. The judge dismissed the case on a technical issue.  (BC DEMOCRAT).

Budget Processes.   Once the county budget is approved by the state, changes such as requests for additional money and transfers between accounts have to be advertised in the paper in support of “transparency.” The council is required to review and approve the change (s).   This “can be” a simple process that requires the identification of the need, specific accounts and changes.

School Referendum 2023?

vote yes or no
Updated: Nov29, 2022
 
 
 

Nov 23, 2022.WE WILL EVALUATE’: Proposed referendum fails on ballot, residents speak on voting ‘yes’ or ‘no by Abigail Youmans.  Now Brown County Schools are reevaluating how to move forward after the proposed operating referendum failed.

Interesting headlines in last week’s (Nov 16) Democrat. Republicans swept local elections and the referendum received a No Vote.  Post at Brown County Matters

 
Nov 18, 2022. EAGLE CORNER: ‘We’ll do what we need to do’: Superintendent’s thoughts after referendum fails By Emily Tracy, Superintendent Brown County Schools

 

Regarding the referendum, the first reaction by the Superintendent reported by WTHR is to conduct another referendum in 2023 because the voters were “confused and misled.” Ref: WTHR “‘It felt like a death’ | Brown County voters reject school referendum.

    • “What’s next for the school district? Tracy said they will seek another referendum in 2023, before the current one expires.” –
    • I believe the language on the ballot is confusing and misleading for voters and it is our effort to continue to educate and inform our community.
o. Note that only the school board can approve moving forward with a new referendum – not a school employee. And once citizens understand the full scope of the situation, the number of No Votes on any future referendum will likely significantly increase.

Who is confused? The ”spin” regarding the tax increase was that the language by the state was confusing and misleading. Indiana Law, the math, and the language on the ballot is VERY clear. Example: If the taxable value of the property (assessed value minus deductions) is $87,792, then the total tax is $105.35. (87,792 divided by 100 multiplied by 12 cents), e.g. grade school level math. This is an average 33% increase in the amount of tax paid to the school corporation. To quote: “The average property tax increase paid to the school corporation per year will increase by 33.91% for residences and 20.91% on business property.” Ref: Auditor Julia Reeves, – worksheet submitted to the DLGF.).
 
Higher Taxes. Higher property taxes may have motivated many citizens to Vote No on the referendum. Under our Constitution, citizens “also” have a civic responsibility to expect the application and demonstration of critical thinking skills, that might support a good argument for a tax increase. A good argument is free of fallacies and would be supported by a comprehensive analysis with supporting detail. The following link identifies the elements of a good argument. The “premise” for the school’s argument is that a referendum should be considered a permanent source of new revenue for the school corporation.
https://independentvotersofbrowncountyin.com/…/critica…/

 

The Spin and Reaction. The superintended took the position of comparing the “expiring” tax (8 cents per 100 of assessed value) to the new 12 cent tax equating the increase (4 cents) as equivalent to a McDonald’s Extra Value Meal or only 3-6 dollars per month. … “If the Brown County Schools referendum would have passed, the median assessed value homeowner would have paid roughly $3 to $6 more per month in property taxes.” .

Many citizens may have considered this spin along with the claims that the state language was “confusing and misleading,” as insulting, demeaning, and professionally unethical without the supporting context. The new tax would transfer over 15 million dollars over 8 years from the citizens to the school corporation – hardly a trivial amount.

 

A way ahead? The school leadership should review the Guest Columns written by the previous superintendent on the required downsizing as a result of the systemic decline in school enrollment since 2009. They should also explain the school leadership’s opposition to Indiana policies on funding school choice (vouchers, educational savings accounts) and how this may justify their decision for a referendum. A position on opposing vouchers is also supported by the controversial National Education Association (NEA) which is aligned with Indiana’s teacher’s unions.

 

o. A Good Argument. A good argument and counter-arguments (based on logic and reason as opposed to emotions) supported with a comprehensive assessment and supporting detail would be helpful. This should address why the superintendent believes that closing schools is not a viable option.

 

o. Managing within the Budget. Likely, the school leadership may find that managing within the budget provided by the state is sufficient. Very few of the 291 school districts in Indiana (reportedly 8 in 2022) opt for a referendum. Three of these eight referendums were rejected by the citizens.

 

o. County Tax Policy. Note also that the lower property tax rates in Brown County are the result of a deliberate policy decision by Republicans who swept the local elections. The County opted for higher income taxes (among the highest in the State) as opposed to increasing property taxes as the major source of revenue. The lower property taxes are of value to many including the 53.1% of our population in the low to moderate-income categories and to the many that are on fixed incomes.

Commissioner Meeting Notes: Nov 16, 2022 

Commissioner Meeting Notes: Nov 16, 2022   – 30 minutes crammed into 90.

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ARPA Funds – No Change. The final decisions on the use of the ARPA funds is still being reviewed.  Changes as to which county employees will receive Covid related bonuses (around $700k) have been discussed.

      • The Foundation – in support of child care-related funding,  requested 195K of ARPA funds. This was before the referendum was approved to be placed on the Nov ballot that included a funding source for the Birth to Five program.  The referendum was defeated by the voters.

Road Paving Plan. The plan going out to 2026 was briefed at the Oct 5, 2022  commissioner’s meeting. It has yet to be posted to the Highway Departments Website. Commissioner Pittman asked Mike Magnor that this be posted.  https://www.browncounty-in.gov/262/Road-Improvement-Plan

Health Benefits and Costs.  Request for Information.(RFI). I have asked the auditor for the history on the “total” budgeted to actual Health Insurance related costs that is reportedly available through the new accounting system.  Intent is to confirm that changes are resulting in less risk and costs to the taxpayers while still providing adequate health care for employees.   Costs have typically been underreported in the annual budget which routinely has been exceeded by over 500K a year,

New Buildings. The courthouse projects – sally port and expanded entrance, are out for bid. Plans for the new buidling for the coroner’s office need some minor changes.

Commissioner Meeting Notes: Nov 2, 2022

Commissioner Meeting Notes: Nov 2, 2022 

Dec 1, 202. Rezone of 44.5 acres in Gnaw Bone OK’d; Nearby property seeks same rezone, discussion tabled til December By  Abigail Youmans

New Development.  The APC recommended and the Commissioners approved a zoning change to allow for residential development for up to 51 homes in the 800-1,400 hundred square feet category. The target market is retirees and second (weekend) homes. The rezone involved 44.5 acres from Primary Residential (R1) to General Business (GB). The area is located across from the new RV trailer park on 46 in Gnawbone.

Note: When an area is rezoned from residential to general business, easy enough for plans to change if/when needed.  The only constraint for the approval is that no rentals under 30 days would be allowed. (The petitioners have been working on their primary Major Subdivision paperwork for a future hearing and I believe they close on the property next week.)

ARPA Funds. The final decisions on the use of the ARPA funds is still being reviewed.  Changes as to which county employees will receive Covid related bonuses (around $700k) have been discussed.

    • The Foundation – in support of child care-related funding, the Foundation requested 195K. This was before the referendum was approved to be placed on the Nov ballot that includes a funding source for the Birth to Five program.  The referendum spend plan identifies that $157K will be budgeted. Unclear at this point what if any additional funding can be used to support the program.

New Development.  The APC recommended and the Commissioners approved a zoning change to allow for residential development for up to 51 homes in the 800-1,400 hundred square feet category. The target market is retirees and second (weekend) homes. The rezone involved 44.5 acres from Primary Residential (R1) to General Business (GB). The area is located across from the new RV trailer park on 46 in Gnawbone.

Note: When an area is rezoned from residential to general business, easy enough for plans to change if/when needed.  The only constraint for the approval is that no rentals under 30 days would be allowed. (The petitioners have been working on their primary Major Subdivision paperwork for a future hearing and I believe they close on the property next week.)

Road Paving Plan. The plan going out to 2026 was briefed at the Oct 5, 2022  commissioner’s meeting. It has yet to be posted to the Highway Departments Website.
https://www.browncounty-in.gov/262/Road-Improvement-Plan