Archive | August, 2012

Criminal Case Filings in Monroe County, 1993-2011

31 Aug

The Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office had a 2012 budget of around $2.17M, not counting the child support collection-related activities or grant-funded programs like adult protective services. This $2.17M was paid for both out of the General Fund ($1.43M) and the Pretrial and Infraction Diversion Fund (fees paid by participants in the Pretrial Diversion Program and Infraction Diversion Programs, $732K).

A substantial portion of the $732K from pretrial and infraction diversion fees goes towards basic operations of the Prosecutor’s Office. This is a practice that goes back to the 2008 budget, and has a long and complicated history that I won’t go into detail on right now. However, the upshot is that the Pretrial and Infraction Diversion Fund is not only currently unsustainable given current revenues and expenditures, but is projected to run out of money this year. Beyond the fiscal unsustainability of the current funding arrangement, some philosophical/policy objections have also been raised (i.e., that funding basic operations of the prosecutor’s office from user fees and fines creates an incentive for the prosecutor to “shake down” students for pretrial diversion revenues).

In any case, for the 2013 budget, the Prosecutor’s Office is requesting that the Council move 5 legal secretary positions (as well as some additional expenses, for a total of almost $270K) from the Pretrial and Infraction Diversion Fund to the General Fund, in order to make the pretrial diversion fund sustainable. This essentially would result in a General Fund budget increase of $270K, and is part of the almost $1.4M of departmental budget requests that exceed projected revenue. The Council is obviously going to make some tough choices here.

All of this is a long preamble for the chart I wanted to provide here. In considering whether or not to accept some (or all?) of the positions that the Prosecutor’s Office is requested be moved back into County General, we have to consider the appropriateness of the overall staffing level of the office with respect to the needs of the community. One component of that analysis is the criminal case filings, which of course is a measure both of the crime that occurs in the community (which the Prosecutor generally has very little control over, although our current Prosecutor has been a model of proactive crime prevention) and of the specific policies of the Prosecutor. One of the policy questions faced by fiscal bodies like the County Council is: to what degree is the county required to pay for policy decisions by individual elected officials?

I put together the following chart, courtesy of data from the Monroe County Circuit Courts, on criminal case filings in Monroe County from 1993-2011 (1993 is the earliest I could get good data from). The cases are separated into misdemeanors and felonies, and I have labeled those cases that occurred under prosecutor Carl Salzmann and those that occurred under (current) prosecutor Chris Gaal.

Monroe County Criminal Case Filing Statistics 1993-2011

 

Overall it does not appear that there has been a substantial increase in overall criminal case filings over the past 10 years (beyond a small among that is probably accounted for by overall population growth — more people generally is going to mean more crime). It is interesting to note that criminal case filings had dipped quite low in the last two years of the Salzmann administration. Was this simply a result of less crime in the community, or was there a policy decision to pursue criminal filings less aggressively? As you can also see, when prosecutor Chris Gaal took over in 2007, there was a large spike in filings, leading to 2007 being the high-water mark for criminal case filings. However, the filing rate appears to have stabilized in the ensuing years, and is probably a better indication of the “normal” rate of criminal filings, rather than the “prosecution-lite” last two years of the previous prosecutor’s administration.

 

Advertisements

IU Kelley School Accounting Project Team to Study Monroe County TIF District

30 Aug

Back in July, I posted about the Indianapolis-Marion County Council Study Commission report on the use and costs and benefits of TIF districts as an economic development tool (link here).

When that study was commissioned, it got me thinking that I’d like to see a similar analysis of the TIF districts here in Monroe County — particularly the Westside Economic Development Area. Namely: is the creation of a TIF district for industrial/employment activities a good investment on behalf of Monroe County taxpayers?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to kick off that analysis. A project team from Professor Jim Grandorf’s (Clinical Professor of Accounting at the IU Kelley School of Business) A569 Field Consulting Project graduate course has accepted our project proposal for their semester-long consulting project, and met with me and several other County officials from the legal department and the Commissioners’ office yesterday to frame the project and our goals. We will be working closely with the four graduate accounting students for the rest of the semester, providing them with a drink-from-the-firehose crash course in public sector finance and tax policy, and they will provide us with essentially a cost-benefit analysis of our Westside TIF district. I’m very much looking forward to this project, and, having seen other work products created from project teams in this course from past years, am confident that it will provide significant value to the residents of Monroe County, who are often rightfully skeptical of economic development tools like TIF.

County Councilor and Friend Warren Henegar Passes Away

22 Aug

Warren, Amy, and Tessa at Warren’s Farm

Friends, I was so saddened to learn that our good friend and colleague on the Monroe County Council Warren Henegar passed away after his battle with cancer.

Our nation and our community owes Warren a debt of gratitude. Truly a member of the “greatest generation”, Warren’s dedication to peace and community service continued to the day he passed.

And on a personal level, Warren has been such a good political mentor to me and good friend to me and to my family. He has always made us feel at home at his farm, and always showed such an interest in our entire family. I remember when we brought home our daughter from China, Warren even came over to our house and showed us slides that he took during one of his trips to China where he brought farmers over from the US for a cultural exchange, telling us how much he loved the people he met there.

We will miss him tremendously. I am glad that he is at peace – but his passing leaves a hole in our lives.

Warren’s obituary is also a must-read — moving and truly a work of art. I am including it below.

Today’s Herald Times has a very nice article on Warren:

The Indiana Daily Student also had a short article:

Warren Prentice Henegar, 85

NOV. 30, 1926 — AUG. 21, 2012

Born in Hale County, Texas, on his parents’ tenant farm, Warren lived a good, arduous and fortunate life. His titles and accomplishments were many: Father, Husband, Friend, Farmer, Politician, Agronomist, Gentleman Philosopher, Truth Teller and worldly Quaker. He had a few unfulfilled ambitions, but not too many.

Warren loved to learn people’s stories and his own story echoed that of 20th century America. Warren was born to Wallace and Venera Tayes Henegar, two months early, weighing 2 pounds 13 ounces. Expected to die, he was placed in a shoebox. He survived. But the Dust Bowl soon threw the family off their farm and into despair. Warren’s father died in a workplace accident in 1930 and his pregnant mother and her five children survived, barely housed and fed, with her stubbornness, the migrant field labor of Warren and his siblings, and the genius of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies.

World War II pulled Warren and his family out of poverty. Warren enlisted in the Navy and reported for duty just days after his 16th birthday. He served in the South Pacific Theatre as a Torpedo Man 3rd Class on the Destroyer USS Fullam 474. Warren survived six major battles, including the radar picket lines off Okinawa. Warren became a Quaker and a (mostly) pacifist after the war, but he always maintained that World War II was a just and necessary war, that the experience was an adventure of a lifetime and that the post-war governmental policies, such as the GI Bill that paid for his college education, transformed his family’s fortunes and secured them in the middle class.

Following the war, Warren attended Stanford University and Texas Tech before completing his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma City University. He obtained a Master’s in Agronomy from Purdue University in 1969.

In 1951, at a civil rights rally in San Francisco, Warren met JoAnna Nix, another member of the Texan diaspora. Mutual friends intended JoAnna to be the date of Warren’s brother, Buddy. Three months later, Warren and JoAnna were married.

An early career with the Social Security Administration carried Warren and JoAnna across the country. Although Warren maintained the ambitions of a writer his entire life, JoAnna’s pointed out to Warren that he enjoyed working in his garden much more than sitting at his desk. They decided on Bloomington, with its cheap farmland and fertile intellectual community.

Warren and JoAnna led a rich and full life from their cattle farm in southern Monroe County. Warren worked a variety of jobs until his semi-retirement at age 79, including Soil & Water Conservationist, Fieldman for the Farm Bureau Co-op and soil scientist and waste water sanitarian for the Monroe Co. Health Dept. JoAnna worked for IU and as a hostess and excellent cook for the many friends who gathered, night after night, around their dinner table. Together they built a home and a farm and a life to which generations of friends and students and out-of-town visitors gravitated.

For over 53 years, Warren Henegar was a voice of reason in Monroe County. He served in Monroe County elected office, off and on, but mostly on, since his first election to County Council in 1970. He fought for fiscal constraint and for recognizing the good that government brings to our American lives. He campaigned for a Peace Monument on our Courthouse Square and for the tough decisions necessary to efficient government. Warren was last elected to the Monroe County Council in 2008 on the same ticket with America’s first African-American President. He was grateful that he lived to witness the latter accomplishment and grateful that his fellow citizens exceeded his expectations and defied history.

With a firm handshake, a kind greeting and keen curiosity, Warren was a welcomed presence. Always generous with his well-informed opinions pulled from wide and varied interests, Warren could both learn from and teach most everyone he met. He served on national boards dedicated to ending world hunger. He led tours to China in the early 1970s. He had, we were told, exceptional tastebuds. Warren prized the food fresh-picked from his garden and he appreciated the art of world-class chefs. He often proclaimed his joyfulness at the dinner table by asserting that “no one in the world is eating a better meal than we are tonight.”

Warren leaves his adventuresome wife of 62 years, JoAnna Nix Henegar, his above average daughters and sons-in-law: Lillian Henegar, Vancouver; Anna Henegar Ensley, Bloomington; Alice and Chris Eads, Bloomington; Jane Henegar and Matt Gutwein, Indianapolis. To weep and wail at his passing, Warren leaves his adoring grandchildren: Hilary Henegar; Ren and Andrew Eads; Lilly and Jane and Jack Ensley; Clara Gutwein. Warren also leaves lonesome his unofficially adopted children and his many friends with whom he has shared his food, his cigars, his labor, his passions, his love and his grace. We all will miss him and his good companionship and his wise counsel very much.

He was a man of integrity with an open heart.

Visitation will be Monday, August 27, 5 to 8 p.m. at the Monroe County Courthouse, 100 W. Kirkwood, Bloomington, Indiana. A memorial will be held at the Meetinghouse of the Bloomington Religious Society of Friends, 3820 Moores Pike, Bloomington, IN, on Sunday, October 7 at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, Warren asks that you pay your taxes without complaint.

 

 

Monroe County 2013 Budget Submissions

19 Aug

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the upcoming 2013 Monroe County budget hearings. Departments were requested to submit their budget requests to the auditor’s office by 8/15/2012. They were provided guidance to:

1. Give employees a flat raise of $1000 (but not otherwise increase personnel budget)

2. Flatline the supplies and services budgets.

3. Cut their fringe benefits rate by 1.5% (as a result of savings in health care and unemployment insurance, not reduction in benefits)

4. Include no capital items.

The following County General budget was submitted by departments for 2013:

Fund Dept Dept Name Total 10s (Personnel) 20s (Supplies) 30s (Services) 40s (Capital Items)
2013 Requests 2013 Requests 2013 Requests 2013 Requests 2013 Requests
1000-County General
001 Clerk $1,951,661 $1,794,461 $94,000 $48,200 $15,000
010 Voter Registration $79,694 $60,667 $5,727 $13,300
062 Election Board $152,976 $43,456 $86,370 $23,150
002 Auditor $555,526 $555,526 $0 $0
003 Treasurer $388,812 $330,512 $15,500 $42,800
004 Recorder $219,882 $219,882 $0 $0
005 Sheriff $4,152,027 $3,831,247 $186,340 $134,440
626 Animal Control $404,631 $97,738 $11,812 $295,080
006 Surveyor $92,546 $91,996 $550 $0
007 Coroner $190,346 $60,137 $2,600 $127,609
008 Assessor $723,884 $713,884 $10,000 $0
009 Prosecutor $1,768,214 $1,686,714 $10,500 $71,000
270 Child Support $971,049 $889,101 $4,001 $77,946
011 Extension Services $225,648 $97,010 $6,936 $121,702
012 Comm/Veteran Affairs $65,537 $64,272 $365 $900
061 County Council $341,358 $234,118 $2,000 $105,240
067 Human Resources $110,427 $101,427 $2,000 $7,000
068 Commissioners $2,913,088 $413,894 $4,900 $2,494,294
069 Fleet $61,800 $0 $0 $61,800
161 County Buildings $1,481,225 $179,096 $58,055 $1,244,074
079 Planning $605,769 $492,163 $6,006 $107,600
106 Tech Services $578,459 $310,599 $14,535 $253,325
225 Unified Courts $4,977,360 $4,325,563 $36,676 $615,121
271 Public Defender $1,205,319 $1,116,369 $8,000 $80,950
277 Comm/Legal $440,045 $375,720 $1,125 $63,200
308 Weights & Measures $58,980 $52,770 $3,910 $2,300
312 Building Commission $594,137 $548,177 $17,085 $28,875
361 Emergency Management $136,008 $113,091 $3,175 $19,742
380 Correctional Center $4,447,265 $3,335,141 $119,007 $993,117
803 Parks & Recreation $767,247 $637,092 $76,855 $53,300
TOTAL $30,660,918 $22,771,822 $788,030 $7,086,066 $15,000

The bottom line for County General budget submissions is $30,660,918. This compares with a 2012 budget of $28,804,530 (after adjusting for a one-time reassessment charge in 2012).  This is an increase of $1.85 million over 2012, or a 6.4% increase. This increase is clearly not supported by a corresponding increase in revenue (and includes many requests outside of the guidance provided), so the Council will need to make significant cuts before passing this budget.

I’ll provide more detail shortly on the reason for these increased requests.

Indianapolis-Marion County Considers Eliminating the Homestead Credit. Should we?

12 Aug

Fish Atop the Monroe County Courthouse

Today’s Indianapolis Star has a longish article on Mayor Ballard’s budget proposal for 2013:

In particular, what caught my eye was the mayor’s proposal to save $8.1 million by eliminating the homestead credit:

“The remaining money to close next year’s deficit would come from ending the homestead tax credit.

Doing away with it is estimated to save $8.1 million. That credit is different from the far more lucrative homestead deduction, which wouldn’t be touched.”

The homestead credit is a portion of local income taxes (County Option Income Taxes) that are held back and used to reduce the property taxes of homeowners. It is a local option to have the homestead credit, and not all counties have one. This is entirely different, as the article points out, from the homestead deduction, which substantially reduces the assessed value of owner-occupied properties.

In Monroe County, the homestead credit cost local units of government $1,346,093 (and conversely the credit saved local homeowners the same amount). The 2012 COIT Distribution Report for Monroe County from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) shows this credit at the upper right-hand corner of the report.

In the past I have suggested that we may want to consider eliminating or phasing out this credit, should the budget situation become dire. Fortunately although budgets for local government are still stressed, we have not faced the likelihood of large-scale cuts in essential services. However, should this become a possibility, the homestead credit is one option that local government has to raise a bit of revenue. Of course, this would be perceived as a tax increase (from the taxpayer’s perspective, elimination of a credit is the same as an increase).

Surprisingly, although the homestead credit is a county-wide tax credit, it is actually up to the Bloomington City Council to modify or rescind the homestead credit. That is because the Indiana Code chapter that defines the homestead credit (IC 6-3.5-6-3) gives the responsibility for setting income tax rates and credits to the County Income Tax Council, which consists of the fiscal bodies of the county and all cities and towns inside the county (this means the County Council, the Bloomington City Council, and the Ellettsville and Stinesville Town Councils).

However, it assigns votes in the County Income Tax Council proportionally to the population in each of the areas represented by the fiscal bodies — in other words, the Bloomington City Council gets votes in proportion to the percentage of Monroe County’s population that is within the Bloomington city limits, the Ellettsville Town Council within the Ellettsville town limits, and the County Council the remaining votes (the population that is outside of the incorporated areas). Stinesville doesn’t have enough population to receive any votes. But in any case, the Bloomington City Council actually has a majority of the votes (greater than the share of the County and Ellettsville combined) — so essentially the City Council has complete say over the county income tax rates and any homestead credit.

City of Carmel Bails out Carmel Redevelopment Commission

9 Aug

The Indianapolis Star today has an interesting article summarizing a situation in Carmel that has been going on for several months now:

In short, primarily because of cost overruns on the construction of the Carmel City Center (think Palladium), which is funded by the tax increment in a TIF district, the Carmel Redevelopment Commission has gotten into a situation in which it doesn’t have any income left for further redevelopment after its debt service payments are made.  The City of Carmel is essentially agreeing to bail the Redevelopment Commission out by refinancing its debt. The savings through lower interest rates will either allow the debt to be paid down faster or will allow additional revenue to complete the development. In exchange for the bailout, the City Council will be asserting greater control over future debt of the Redevelopment Commission.

State Pushes New Accounting Mandate on Counties for Income Tax Revenues

3 Aug

Monroe County Courthouse in the Fall

New Mandate from the State

This week, the Monroe County Auditor’s Office (along with every other auditor’s office in the state) received the following memorandum from the Indiana State Board of Accounts and the Department of Local Government Finance: DLGF Memo 24 July 2012 RE COIT Fund.

The relevant part of this memorandum states:

Implementation of the uniform county chart of accounts has brought to light that counties have been commingling income tax certified shares and distributive shares with property tax dollars. This practice fails to provide accountability for each of these revenue streams and any remaining balances. In order to avoid creating shortfalls in these commingled funds State Board of Accounts (SBOA) did not ask for change in 2012 but we are looking to improve the uniform accounting system in 2013 and beyond.

Beginning in 2013, the SBOA is instructing all county units to use funds, 1110, CAGIT County Certified Shares or 1121, COlT County Distributive Shares, as applicable, to receipt, disburse and account for balances of county income tax dollars not otherwise designated for special legislation or property tax relief. Planning and budgeting for this change is necessary during the 2013 budget process. Please enter these funds as new “home rule” funds in Gateway.

These new funds are separate income tax revenues for the purpose of fixing the county budget and may be used for any allowable governmental purpose. Salaries, fringe benefits, capital expenses are all appropriate uses of these funds. Income tax, however, is the only revenue source for the fund.

Two General Funds?

To understand why this is an issue, consider the way that most counties (including Monroe County) budget for their basic operations. There is a general fund that funds most basic functions of local government — law enforcement, record-keeping, tax collections, justice, etc. Highway funding is already separate, by statute. Revenues flow into this general fund from multiple sources — property taxes, excise taxes, income taxes, fees for service (such as building, planning, and recording fees), etc., and are then expended out of the general fund for the operations of county government, as appropriated by the County Council. This provides maximum flexibility for the County Council to express the priorities of the community in the county general fund budget.

This memo, however, is instructing counties to start segregating out the income tax revenues from all of the other revenue sources that flow into County General into a completely separate fund, and then budgeting for county expenses out of this fund as well. This essentially requires the creation of a second general fund — but without any clear policy distinction between the two (since at this point, property tax, income tax, and other miscellaneous revenues can be expended for any legal expense of county government).

In principle this new mandate from the state should make absolutely no difference. It neither increases nor decreases the amount of revenue available for county government, nor does it in any way restrict the way in which revenues are expended. What it does, however, is create, at the last minute (with respect to budget hearings) a significant budgeting challenge without any public policy benefit. Counties now have to decide arbitrarily which expenses to pay out of the regular old general fund (property tax plus other miscellaneous revenues) vs. which expenses to pay out of the new income tax general fund. Additional monitoring will be required throughout the year to ensure that one of the two general funds doesn’t accumulate a surplus while the other runs a deficit.

How to Slice Apart the General Fund

Since this mandate was just released, no approaches have yet been proven out.  However, different, counties are discussing different approaches. Some counties are considering segregating the income tax fund by function — in particular, by putting so-called “public safety” expenses in the new income tax fund, leaving the rest of county government expenses in the old general fund. I strongly oppose this approach, first, because it sets “public safety” (however that is defined) apart from and above other functions of county government, and second because it creates the temptation for a public safety entitlement if the income tax general fund winds up in surplus.

Another possible approach is to segregate expenses by category — for example, to put all supplies, services, and capital items in the income tax fund while paying personnel out of the old general fund. Paying personnel out of any fund creates particular cash flow problems — payroll may be required before the income tax is received, for example, and so the county would need to “seed” the new fund with money that would be available January 1, 2013, if payroll were to be made out of the fund (we probably want to seed the fund anyway, so that expenditures can be made January 1, but it becomes less urgent if the budgeted expenses are non-personnel).  I prefer this approach, although the fund will probably wind up in surplus, since the total of the county’s supply, services, and capital item expenditures in the general fund. This kind of approach, though, avoids setting up an entitlement mentality for certain essential county government functions over others.

Process Over Substance

In summary, while counties can certainly figure out ways to work with this mandate, it puts additional burden and complexity on the budget process with absolutely no additional public benefit. There is no more control over expenditures. No more transparency. No more accountability. This is simply process over substance. And the problem can be fixed by the General Assembly next session; the General Assembly can simply specify that income tax revenues should be distributed into the general fund.