Thursday, August 14, 2008

14 August 2008 Dearborn County Council Budget Hearing Notes

1. Superior Court - Judge Witte presented. This budget is reduced as was last years. The referee position is eliminated. The person holding that job knew that it would be eliminated when she took it in 2005. Budget reduction is $24,000.

2. Witte took the opportunity to address the Council as this was his last hearing for the 24 years he has been in office. He shared things that he has personally talked to council and commissioners about over the years. This time he stressed that because of his experience and knowledge he felt that these items should be addressed. The judicial branch is the 3rd co-equal branch of gov’t. Witte wants it to continue to inspire confidence and not be run as “individual fiefdoms.”

Witte said that THERE IS NO NEED FOR 3 PROBATION DEPARTMENTS AND NO NEED FOR 2 DRUG COURTS. He said they should have a uniform pay scale. Most of the U.S. has a single probation dept.

The Indiana Commission on Local Gov’t Reform chaired by Shepard and O’Bannon recommended that we transfer funding to the state for ALL courts and probation depts.. to eliminate conflicts with county gov’t and get economies of scale. Witte said he supports this- unlike most of the judges in SE Indiana and reiterated his desire to eliminate individual fiefdoms.
Witte said that if we wanted to make a room bigger we could knock out walls and add to it OR we could put mirrors all around the room and make it LOOK bigger. Similarly- you can make a place look more crowded than it already is by adding cubicles and a moving files and scheduling courts all at one time so the area fills up. The state can handle public defenders also- all we would have to do is create a board of attorneys and citizens to administer the public defender system. Witte said he proposed these things in 2005 before we even knew which judge would be in that court.

Witte talked about a case where Kevin Taylor (NOT the one in Greendale) has cases in 3 courts here and has 3 separate public defenders and 3 sets of billable hours. These cases should be rolled to one court per Witte.

Witte ended with saying that he is willing to consult for Council if they want to call upon him after Jan 1. Fehrman said that it has been a privilege to work with Witte under a variety of circumstances over the past years. Thompson later reiterated that Hamilton County has 12 judges and only one probation dept. as back-up for Witte’s position. [NOTE: Looking through the various budgets on the probation departments- Witte’s stance makes sense.]

3. Witte also spoke during the Community Corrections – this dept is funded totally on state grant and project income. Their Director is paid $50,104 and the assistant is $38,496. This money comes from Ohio and Switzerland County also. Switzerland County may separate by 2010.The only thing they needed was money to pay the health insurance for 3 new employees that they want to take to full time. Fehrman took them to task for not paying for their gas from the sheriff’s dept. Apparently they get that money for gas as they request it – paperwork needs to get done. Corrections began in 1989. Up to now they’ve oaid it all themselves with grants and project funds etc. They generate over $300,000 a year. They have not asked Swizterland (15%)or Ohio Cty (7%) to help with the health insurance. No decision yet.

4. Superior Court 2- Judge Sally Blankenship presented. She said her alcohol and drug education programs were all on fees. She has $45,000 for an additional public defender spot in addition to the 70,000 already there. Blankenship added $750,000 for space needs ( a new courtroom). She said the microphones in the Commissioners Room that she uses for trials are not suitable for jury trials because the jury can HEAR what lawyers are saying at the bench. They aren’t suppose dto hear that BUT it does have to be picked up on tape- so a split system of some sort is needed. Her case load has gotten high- she says it’s at 1.4. She is managing with different staff and budgets to get help for pauper attorneys etc. She paid an intern $11/hour but he is now finishing law school. She has split jobs like deputy court reporter with probation dept. Fehrman urged her to keep fighting the fight to get her court space. Blankenship brought up the bathroom facilities that are public and also used for drug tests in the courthouse.

5. Circuit Court Probation- Steve Bradley- passed out information on how HEA 1001 affects Juvenile Court. He said Judge Humphrey is apprehensive and he himself is just scared of what it will do to the juvenile system. Decisions will be made by people who never see the kids or families.

They are asking for a Placement Coordinator- $25,000. Humphrey’s office is willing to put $5-7,500 towards this. This position is only for juveniles. The chief probation officer is paid $ 55,565 and Juvenile Probation is paid $47,467. Other probation officers make between $40-44,000. There is a strain with Child Services as they change procedures and Corrections isn’t told about it- so they feel as if they are trying to hit a moving target. Juvenile office now files applications for Medicaid cards for kids they put in placement. It costs $300/day for kids in a residential facility. [NOTE: It only costs $45/day for prisoners per yesterday’s hearings on the sheriff dept. Kids eat more- but not that much more!]

Fehrman put a note about putting a building dept person into the Placement Coordinator spot. No decision.

6. Superior Probation 2- Chief probation officers here make $45,447 and regular officers can make between $29-34,000. The chief officer here made more than $45447 because she said the judge supplemented her when she came to work for her. [NOTE: In other words she was paid more than the standard pay scale by Judge Blankenship.]

They are attempting to do more intensive work in this dept to supervise, make more home visits and do more counseling so that there are less probation violations. This will keep the jail from overcrowding. They have $25,000 as rent in their budget to get more facilities- they will need additional security if they move out of the courthouse because thet treat released felons etc. The new hire would also need a new computer.

7. Prosecutor- Aaron Negangard- first gave a replay of presentation that Commissioners saw a while back and video on the Region 15 Child Advocacy Center which will be self funded eventually by grants etc, but they need start up money. This will build the first one in the state of Indiana. The center will be in Kim Schmaltz’s old law office in Dillsboro and is 15 minutes from the Versailles ISP Post. They are raising $500,000 and have $100,000 so far. Negangard said 1173 children in Dearborn County are reported as abused. Liz Morris and Maynard Barrett both strongly backed Negangard. They believe this lessens the trauma to the child and also saves money as cases get pled out rather than go to trial. Kraus asked if we’d be funding more employees- Negangard said NO. They will be a non-profit and funded from other revenue streams. Ullrich wanted to give then $75,000- Council went with $50,000 like Switzerland County. Lawrenceburg is also helping out. Council voted to give then $50,000 from the contingency fund.

8. Prosecutor Budget- Deputy Prosecutor 1 makes $70,038 and there are 4 more ranging from $40,400 – 54827. The supplemental deputy prosecutor fund is $40,000. The prosecutor budget is about 60% local funds and 40% state funds and grants.

Negangard wants two new positions- legal secy at $26,000 and Investigator at $30,000 (with Sheriff paying his benefits as they share this). Negangard says DEARBORN COUNTY HAS THE LARGEST METHADONE CLINIC IN THE US AND THE LARGEST RIVERBOAT CASINO IN THE US. Cincinnati doesn’t deal well with it’s criminal element and we get some of that too.

Victim Advocacy is all grant money.

Negangard is going paperless and working with Messmore to pursue grants for this. They put $80,000 in the budget for that. [NOTE: That might help the space needs too. If doctors and hospitals can go paperless- surely the lawyers can too.]

9. Building Inspector- Carl Fryman- Building Commissioner gets $41,562, other inspectors range from $30,213 – 34,909. Fehrman noted they have been going through some turmoil in the dept.- but they are on the mend – getting fixed and thanked Fryman for stepping up. Townsend is retiring and they are not replacing a position for 2009. This will leave 4 positions. One is in ROTC and leaving in 2009 (Pat Ohlaut) sometime and another is 65 and can retire if he wants (Tom Smith). Fryman will be there and the last one is the new hire- Joe Zoller.

They are handling Weights and Measures and only need one person there. – for about 2-3 days a week. Fryman is certified and so he can sign off on whoever he sends to do the weight tests. Once a county hits 30,000 they have to have this dept. There are other tests that can be done but are not required yet- per Messmore.

Fryman says they are cleaning out files to obtain space- none have ever been done. [NOTE: I hope someone tells him about record destruction having to be approved by the records committee.]

Fehrman said it seems silly to lay off Joe Zoller if Pat goes or Tom retires. Perhaps he can work seasonal for the highway and also animal control. [NOTE: Why is Council meddling in the Building Dept. hiring of SPECIFIC employees? I thought Council wanted to stick to functions and positions and not get personal. Liz Morris said this was inappropriate yesterday- it should be inappropriate today too.]

Fryman said he wanted to keep his options open and would like to take applications to get the best employee we can get. Thompson said we had an inspector who left because of the dept problems and would like to return if the dept goes back to “doing things right.”

Fryman said he was Clay Township trustee for 8 years and he knows about finances. He stressed that this was his personal circumstance to work with.

Thompson asked why there was no gas money in this budget. Fryman noted they had just implemented a route for inspectors to save gas and keep consumption low. They are 35-40% down from last year.

Cheek asked if Fyman gets the Building Commissioner’s pay if he’s doing the work. The answer was NO- as Townsend doesn’t retire till Dec 31st.

Council adjourned for lunch. Afternoon id County Extension budget and they will work on the entire set now to see if they can fit salaries etc. in.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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