Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What I Learned at County Council Budget Hearings on August 21-22, 2006

What I Learned at County Council Budget Hearings on August 21-22, 2006

This is a partial listing of what transpired at Council Hearings this week.

1. All gas usage in the county goes through the Sheriff’s budget. It is then billed back to the individual departments. [NOTE: I thought all reimbursements went back into county general fund. How does the Sheriff’s dept. get this money back then?]

2. It will take $415,000 to replace all the keypad entries in the jail. The current ones are obsolete.

3. Phil Van Natta is retiring in 2007. He stated they have made tremendous strides in the dept. and now it is a professional sheriff’s dept.

4. The jail serves between 600-700 meals a day at a cost of about $350,000 per year for the food.

5. Comparato and Branaman of Vieste gave a presentation concerning their part of a partnership financial and planning package for various projects including the I-74 corridor and St. Leon area. Their presentation was vague with respect to exactly what services they will be providing for their $65,000. Phase 1 would be completed in 90 days. They also stated they will be matching the $65,000 with $65,000 of their own work. This work is apparently the part that DCEDI has already purchased from them. [NOTE: Messmore, County Adm. Followed this up the next day stating it would be $30,000 for 2006 and $30,000 for 2007. He has a contract agreement that Ewbank has gone over. So maybe it’s $60,000.]

Cary Pickens noted that at a dinner in Nov 2005 these people were planning on doing all this for free and would make their money on the investments they bring in. They had just bought out Cogden Engineering (sp?) and Dick Robertson (of the North Dearborn Road projects) was also there. He said he hadn’t heard anything more since Joe Pesch (sp?) up north called with a plan to dedicate COIT money to this project. [NOTE: This is not bringing in financing- this is just moving our own tax dollars around.]

Camparato stated that they were here not just because of Honda but also because of what is here. He went on to tell about the US 31 Corridor in Carmel - having an $80 mil arts center and a world leader in roundabouts. They created an overlay zoning set up 600 ft on either side of the ROW of US 31 for a 5 ½ mile stretch from 465 to 146th street. He talked about service roads and 5-acre minimums with 15,000 sq ft minimum businesses. He said they didn’t want the big boxes [NOTE: It was unclear how they kept that out of the plan.]

For those of you wondering who these people are, some info is below:
According to the Vieste, LLC company’s website there are two principals. Their website profiles are:
Michael A. Comparato, Sr., President and CEO has extensive experience in corporate mergers, acquisitions and asset management and has planned, financed, developed and managed over $500 million of real estate nationally. He has successfully engineered financial transactions in both for-profit and non-profit communities, utilizing a variety of debt/equity vehicles including closed-end investment funds, real estate investment trusts, equity syndications, tax-exempt bond issues, pension funds and institutional lending sources. Mr. Comparato has served public and private sector clients as owner's representative/program manager on several major projects. The aggregate value of these capital projects exceeds $300 million.
As Senior Vice President, Mark H. Branaman heads up the Technical Services Group for VIESTE, LLC. His responsibilities include working with the Managing Principals of each of the Technical Services Group operating companies to ensure operations occur to meet the needs of VIESTE'S clients, the Management Services Group of VIESTE, the Portfolio Holdings Group of VIESTE, and the investors of VIESTE. Mr. Branaman is responsible for helping VIESTE grow through both organic growth and mergers and acquisitions.
Endangered Species Chocolate Co and The Indianapolis Museum of Art are the company’s 2 projects since formed a little over a year ago.

London Witte’s website states: London Witte Group, LLC (LWG) is a certified public accounting firm that employs professional and support personnel in Indianapolis, Indiana. The firm provides an array of accounting and consulting services to a wide variety of public, private, and governmental clients. Jim Higgins has been a contact here. His profile states:
Jim Higgins, a firm partner, joined London Witte Group in June 1997. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Ball State University and has over twenty (20) years of experience in working with Indiana communities on financial issues. He currently is overseeing the governmental services segment of the practice. This segment provides financial advisory services to political subdivisions throughout the State of Indiana including school corporations, libraries, cities, towns, municipal and not-for-profit utilities, and other special taxing authorities. These services include, but are not limited to, bond and note financings, cash flow and escrow verifications, budget preparation and analysis, revenue requirement studies, property tax impact analysis, bond proceeds investment management, continuing disclosure services and representation before legislative, regulatory and other governing bodies.
Jim's governmental experience is extensive and includes previous employment with both the Indiana Bond Bank and the Indiana State Board of Accounts. He has worked with over 400 political subdivisions and taxing authorities in addressing their financing, budgetary and accounting needs including assisting with the issuance of over $3 billion of bonds and notes. He has prepared and made presentations to local officials and their organizations, community groups, financing professionals, investors, legislators and rating agencies regarding programs offered by the Bond Bank and municipal finance in general.
Jim is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Indiana CPA Society. Additionally, Jim is affiliated with the following organizations:
Indiana Association of County Commissioners
Association of Indiana Counties
Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
Indiana League of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers
Indiana School Board Association
Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents
Indiana Association of School Business Officials
Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada
Indiana Government Finance Officers Association
It should be noted that Council might fund this with the stipulation that they can stop it if they don’t like what they see- though there is apparently a 90-day notice, which pretty much means they’ve paid for all of Phase 1 at least.
[NOTE: It should also be noted that there is duplication of some of the services these people are providing. Woolpert’s sewer study and the Comp Plan for example already have some of this info. If they fail to coordinate this with Planning and Zoning and if they continue to operate behind closed doors the chances of PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT are slim. This entire process needs to open up more.]

6. GIS is alive and well in the county. They are starting to outgrow their single person and may need a part or full time helper in the office. So far they are utilizing interns. It was apparent from later discussions that housing GIS in an office with someone who is savvy to the technology is a good idea. It may also be smarter to share personnel with that office so Minzner can be relieved of clerical tasks and concentrate on the tech and coordination of offices.

7. The treasurer’s office and auditor’ s office have not balanced their books since 2003- at least their books don’t match like they should. This is supposedly due to reassessment.

8. The auditor’s software will not generate the reports that the state wants and he will have to ditch his AS400 system and buy a $300,000 one form Lows, one of 3 entities that can do the required work. It is supposedly compatible with Mannitron in the Assessors office. It’s unclear why the state can’t come up with a few vendors that can do it all for all 3 offices. Lansing noted it would take a CPA to fix this mess. Pickens plans to exercise the performance bond on New World for failure to keep the system updated. That will gain $80,000. They still will need an additional $220,000. [NOTE: This old system was fought over at length in the last administration. Pickens said he hated like hell to be back with this news.]

9. The treasurer wants training dollars because some of her staff doesn’t even know Excel yet.

10. Tax payments may go to a lockbox and they are thinking of getting credit card paying ability also.

11. The recorder’s budget is the same as last years.

12. Veteran’s office noted we have a 30% increase in Vets in this county.

13. Planning and Zoning wants full time ass’t planner to be shared with St. Leon and West Harrison picking up the tab for $15,000 of the cost.

14. Planning and Zoning requested $50,000 to seek a fiscal impact study to compare commercial industrial and residential impacts on the county services. The plan commission can base decisions on this data, thus improving the objectivity of decisions. McCormack stated the purpose is not to spend all the money, but to get the project we want.

15. The Council will finish up hearings on Wednesday with Riverboat revenue discussions in the morning starting at 9 AM.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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