In a letter from St. Joseph County leaders to department heads, it was revealed that the county will have to make some big changes in order to deal with reduced revenue.
Due to the Circuit Breaker legislation, the amount of property tax the county can charge is limited by the assessed value of the property.
That means St. Joseph County will lose an estimated $7.2 million in 2014, with nearly $6.2 million in the general fund alone.
In order to reduce the impact of those losses, the following steps were proposed.
1. An immediate hiring freeze for all County Departments and Offices within the General, Health, Park and Recreation, Reassessment, Cumulative Capital Development, Cumulative Bridge and Major Cumulative Bridge Funds.
2. No increases in employee compensation from any of the Funds listed above.
3. All departments are asked to provide a 3% reduction to the 2014 Adopted Budget.
4. Additionally, with regard to the 2015 Proposed Budget, we are asking each department to review the 2014 budget after the 3% reduction and resubmit a budget with the mandatory additional 5% overall reduction to the 2015 Proposed Budget.
The letter, signed by Commission President Andrew Kostielney, Council President Rafael Morton, and Auditor Peter Mullen, ended with the following words of encouragement: "We have been through difficult times in the past. We will get through this and we appreciate your help and cooperation."
On Friday afternoon, St. Joseph County Democrats released the following statement:
The St. Joseph County Democratic Party commends the proactive leadership of County officials in these tough budget times.
Today’s announcement regarding the additional cuts needed to the County budget is unfortunate in the fact that it comes at a time when many departments are already running on minimal budgets while the state is sitting on a budget surplus of $2 Billion.
Party Chairman Jason Critchlow stated: “I applaud the proactive steps being taken by our county leaders and I have big concerns for the future.”
Earlier this year the Republican State Legislature and Pence administration slashed the corporate business tax and currently the state is sitting on a $2 Billion surplus.
Critchlow went on to say: “This comes at a time when our Governor is working to pad his own resume on the back of local governments and working class families. It is our schools, police, firefighters, and ultimately every St. Joseph County family that will be feeling this pinch and will be left holding the bag when Gov. Pence leaves Indiana to run for President.”