Among the greatest strengths in Brown County is the high quality of leadership of our volunteers working in the non-profit areas, the Community Foundation, and the Schools.
Brown County has perhaps four (4) interest groups that can influence policy and the direction of the county:
- The Political Party (s) that select candidates for office. Elected officials appoint members to boards and commissions that provide oversight and direction to the local government bureaucracy (a body of nonelective government officials).
- The county budget is approximately $17 million.
- Brown County Schools receive funding from the state and through local taxes (such as the referendum). School Boards members are elected. The school’s total budget is approximately $27 million.
- The tourism industry. A focus and support for tourism have been a dominant political and economic strategy for Nashville as well as for the county. The fast-track process applied to approve funding for the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center reinforces this strategy. The county is funded primarily by income and property tax.
- The Non-Profits. There are 284 non-profits in the county identified by the State including the Brown County Community Foundation. There are many other non-profit groups that contribute to our quality of life that are not listed. It is this area that contains an impressive level of leadership.
- The Leadership Brown County 2010/2020 initiatives supported by the Community Foundation were not successful in aligning community and government interests. Elected leaders did not support the Partnership as evidenced by lack of attendance at meetings and support for improvement related strategies.
- Locals (Original Settlers) vs New Settlers. The locals include individuals that were born here and may represent families that may have resided in Brown County for generations. The New Settlers represent people that were not born here, also love the county and were attracted by the natural beauty (topography), cultural history, heritage, and overall quality of life. Issues with “seniority” are not new to Brown County.
- Seniority is the concept of a person or group of people taking precedence over another person or group because the former is either older than the latter or has occupied a particular position longer than the latter. (Wikipedia)
Strategic Planning that identifies what citizens want and do not want is among the best ways to balance and leverage the wisdom, support, resources and energy of the citizenry. Planning includes conducting periodic assessments on the effectiveness of the plan. Lack of planning contributes to decisions that can benefit the few and the expense of the many.
All the current (2018) county commissioners and all but one county council member are affiliated with the Republican Party. In addition to running as a member of another party – Democrat, Libertarian, other candidates for office can also run as Independents. Running as an Independent requires relatively few signatures in order to get on the ballot in the general election. Regardless of political affiliation, candidates may agree to common governance principles that include: Transparency, Fiscal Management, Planning, Assessment, Continuous Learning, Collaboration.
“Economic impact studies of tourism in Indiana and Brown County reinforce the benefits of sustaining a tourism industry. However, tourism, by itself, has not and cannot provide a sustainable economic future for Brown County. Further, too much tourism can have detrimental effects on the attributes that have attracted pioneers, artists, residents, and visitors to Brown County since 1836. Ref: Sep 20, 2017, GUEST COLUMN: A study of tourism and economic sustainability
The county was in the process of applying for the first-ever, economic development strategic planning grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). An issue with a previous grant has resulted in the delay of this application. The issue was resolved in May 2018.
- May 15, 2018. Grant freeze over soon? Van Buren Fire, county commissioners make a deal. The agreement took effect May 10. The Van Buren Volunteer Fire Department agreed to legally dissolve in exchange for a $77,545.60 settlement from the county.
- Feb 14, 2018, – County shut out of grants until fire station occupation resolved. Brown County will not be eligible to apply for grants from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs until it is able to resolve a years-long debate regarding the Van Buren Volunteer Fire Department.
NEW (2016) . Community Vitality Indicators (CVI). CVI’s provides an assessment of the economic health of the county. Categories include assessed value, per capita income, population, school enrollment, and educational attainment rates. These indicators provide feedback on economic sustainability.
IN-PROCESS – Economic Development Strategic Plan. The recent county income survey identified the 53.1% of residents fall within the low to moderate income level that qualifies the county to apply for federal grants. The county has started the process of applying for an economic development strategic planning grant of $40,000. Economic Development Plans_OCRA Technical Requirements
- Development of the economic plan will include community meetings where the citizens will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide input. A consulting firm has been selected, Thomas P Miller and Associates.
NO ACTION. 2012 County Comprehensive Plan – 14 pages. Meets the minimum requirement needed for making decisions on zoning and ordinances. Grants to update the plan in the amount of $50,000 are available.
IN PROCESS 2016-Present. Helmsburg Community Revitalization. The Helmsburg Leadership Team created an economic development plan and with the support of the Redevelopment Commission (RDC), an Economic Development Area (EDA) was created in 2017. In 2018, goals include the creation of a community development association (CDA).
COMPLETED 2017. IU SPEA Report –Redevelopment Analysis, Prepared by Liza Bartlett, Daniel Lopez, Drew Sherman An independent and objective assessment on the sustainability of the Brown County economy.
NEW 2017 – Hometown Collaborative Initiative. A collaborative approach to leadership and decision making.
PROPOSED: Support for Brown County Schools. Development of an economic and residential housing policy that will help slow or reverse the downward trend in school enrollments. Without an effective strategy, Brown County Schools may need to continue to cut the budget and rely on additional tax revenue from referendums.
- Brown County Schools – 2017 and 2018 Budget Recommendations. See Slide 6 – Enrollment Forecasts.
- An Examination of Rural Housing Development Programs, December 2016. With a Special Focus on Rural Indiana: Rural-Housing-Development-Programs-Issues-and-Strategies
WORK IN PROGRESS: State of the County – Annual Assessment and Report. An annual State of the County Assessment and Report would include the following: Strengths (accomplishments), Weaknesses (areas that need improvement), Opportunities (goals and objectives) and Threats (challenges).