News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 10, 2012

County highway department gasoline budget running on empty

TERRE HAUTE — By the end of next year, Vigo County’s Highway Department will be precariously close to running out of an operating balance in its budget.

That’s because the department needs gasoline money for the rest of this year.

The highway department Tuesday sought $120,000 from the Vigo County Council to cover gasoline costs through Dec. 31. The department sought the funds from the operating balance in its Local Road and Street Fund.

“The problem is [the highway department] has an estimated budget [for 2013] of $631,227 and generating $557,000 in estimated revenues,” County Auditor Tim Seprodi told the County Council. “That is a difference of about $74,000.”

In previous years, the department has used the operating balance to cover that shortfall. The operating balance is usually recommended to contain at least three to six months of funds as a cushion. That balance is projected to contain $146,000 by December 2013.

Removing $120,000 this year will leave that projected operating balance at just $26,000 at the end of 2013.

“That is everything stays the same” in expenses and projected revenues, Seprodi said.

The highway department has already moved $20,000 from its bituminous materials budget for gasoline costs. The department plans to put $20,000 of the requested money back into that budget, leaving $100,000 for gasoline the rest of this year.

Councilman Mark Bird said that while the council approved more than $2 million from its Rainy Day Fund for road improvement projects this year, the highway department continued to use its regular budget to pay for gasoline, instead of including gasoline costs within that Rainy Day appropriation.

“That is why they fell short,” Bird said.

The council has increased the highway department’s gasoline budget $51,000 for 2013, Bird said. Council President Kathy Miller suggested the council “can only move forward” with the appropriation request and look at any possible shortfall issues next year.

The council approved the appropriation 6-0. Councilman Tim Curley was not present.

In other matters, the council approved more than $112,000 from the Drug Task Force Seized Asset Fund for the Vigo County Prosecutor’s office.

It includes $47,000 for the purchase of low-mileage used police vehicles for the Terre Haute Police Department. The council previously has approved $120,000 for the police vehicles, which was an amount lower that initially requested. The council delayed further approval until additional funds could be paid from the seized asset fund.  

It also includes $43,000 for reimbursement for law enforcement investigations:

n $23,135 largely to reimburse the Terre Haute Police Department for drug interdiction work on Interstate 70 ($19,637) along with the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department (about $800) and cell phone stipends for the drug task force and a copy machine for the city police department.

n $9,000 to pay an annual subscription to Leads Online, the reporting service where pawn shops, scrap metal shops and other buyers of used property must report their transactions under a Terre Haute ordinance.

n  $15,000 for confidential funds, used in undercover drug buys.

The final portion is a $6,982 reimbursement to the county general fund. The prosecutor’s office had awarded grants/donations of $1,000 each to West Vigo High School Junior-Senior prom and Terre Haute Police Department for National Night Out; $500 each to Terre Haute North Vigo High School junior prom, Terre Haute North Vigo High School senior proms, McLean High School for a senior trip, Senior Education Ministries; and a payment of $2,892 for backpacks distributed at the National Night Out.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Robert Roberts said when the prosecutor’s general fund resumed expenses previously covered under an infraction deferral fund, that budget included grants awarded to community agencies.

“After noticing that, we didn’t think it was appropriate for tax dollars to go toward those grants, so we are asking to be reimbursed [from seized assets] so that those tax dollars can be paid back to the county from those grants,” Roberts said.

In other matters, the council approved $65,688 to pay election poll workers. The county’s 2012 budget for poll workers had been set at 2011 levels at $76,100; however, that year was a municipal election and did not cover the entire county.

A legislative change has moved the budget of the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field under a binding vote of the Vigo County Council. Previously, the council simply approved a general non-binding review of the budget. State law now requires airports with appointed boards — the Terre Haute Airport Authority is appointed by city and county officials — to undergo a binding review.

However, since the airport was in an transition of a new administrative setup, the airport did not meet state deadlines for budget advertising. So, the council voted to take no action, leaving the budget up to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

The County Council also approved binding budgets for fire protection districts in Honey Creek, New Goshen, Lost Creek, Prairieton, Riley and Sugar Creek townships as long as each district maintains an operating balance as well as the Clay-Owen-Vigo Solid Waste District. The council took no action on a non-binding budget for Prairie Creek Township, stating the township has not provided a budget for the past two years. The state will next review that budget.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reach ed at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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