The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to adopt the 2017 county budget Tuesday afternoon, but not without plenty of discussion about parts of it.
The biggest cut was to the county’s funding of Indiana West Advantage. The council elected to cut the funding from $75,000 to $50,000.
Councilman Mark Davidson cited a lack of knowledge about how much money the economic development agency really has.
“Why does IWA get to not disclose this information?” Davidson asked IWA Executive Director Tom Utley.
Utley replied by saying that the organization does not have to disclose this information to council because council’s role to is fund the projects, not take part in them. That job falls on the IWA board members.
The council voted, 4-3, to make the $25,000 cut, despite disagreement from Councilman Aaron Morgan.
“I believe $75,000 is a bargain for the services we receive,” he stated.
Greg Morrison, Morgan and Councilman Mark Smith voted against making the cut.
IWA also receives $75,000 of funding from the city of Crawfordsville. Mayor Todd Barton said that there were no plans to adjust the city’s funding of IWA after the county’s action.
“There have been times where one (entity) has paid more than the other,” Barton said. “We are constantly re-evaluating the approach. The goal is to increase private funding.”
The topic that the council spent the most time on was the county employee pay structure. The council agreed, 6-1, to adopt a new method from a study conducted by New Focus HR.
“I agree that this is a good starting point,” Councilman Michael Plant said. “With this system I feel it will continue to be more a competitive rate. It needs to be re-evaluated annually.”
The opposing vote come from council member Richard Chastain, who said the study that was conducted had too many flaws to use as the basis for employee salaries.
“This is the poorest recommendation I’ve ever heard,” Chastain said. “Even the person who presented the study to council said she wouldn’t want to work for Montgomery County.”
The council also had trouble agreeing on a proposed cut to the West Central Solid Waste District (WCSWD).
The council heard sentiment from WCSWD Director Jane Collisi about its budget and the proposed cuts to it.
“When comparing Montgomery County (who is partnered with Parke and Putnam Counties) to other counties that have opted to not be part of a partnership with other counties, the price difference ($1.50 per person compared to $18 per person) is substantial,” Collisi said.
Ultimately the council voted 5-2 to leave funding for the WCSWD in the budget. Opposing votes came from Morgan and Smith.
“I feel it’s a disservice to our taxpayers to continue to pay into that, when there is a $1.1 million reserve,” Morgan offered. Davidson countered by stating that $1.50 per person is a very generous rate for the services received.
Upon voting to the budget, Morgan also said that though there were some disagreements, the council’s ultimate goal is to represent the county’s taxpayers to the best of their abilities.
“The state gives us their best estimate of what we need to maintain our county,” Morgan said. “The process is anything but exciting.”
The next council meeting will be held Nov. 15 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse.