Archive | March, 2014

School Corporations Get a Short-Term Reprieve on School Bus Funding

31 Mar

Protected Taxes and School Transportation

In January, I wrote Circuit Breakers, Protected Taxes, and Idled School Buses, about the Indiana statute that required schools who have lost revenue from the circuit breakers (including the 1%-2%-3% tax caps in the Indiana Constitution) to prioritize debt funds over  any other fund when applying the losses from the circuit breakers. This is due to what in the statute are called protected taxes.

The legislation underlying protected taxes measn that school corporations facing circuit breaker losses had to first fully fund debt funds, even beyond the amount needed to make required debt service payments, which typically meant that capital projects and transportation funds had to bear the full brunt of the circuit breaker losses. This has even led to some school corporations considering ending school bus service entirely.

HEA 1062 Gives a Temporary Reprieve

This week, however, the Indiana General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, House Enrolled Act 1062, giving school corporations hit heavily by circuit breakers a three-year reprieve. HEA 1062 allows school corporations that are experiencing at least a 10% hit to their transportation funds due to circuit breaker losses to apply circuit breaker losses proportionally to all funds, rather than funding debt service first, for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs?

Welcome as this statute is, it is only a short-term fix for what will be an ever-growing crisis for school corporations around the state. All this action does is give school corporations a little flexibility in how they arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. In 2013 (the latest year for which the numbers have been determined), the circuit breakers sucked $245M of funding out of our school systems, a number that will undoubtedly increase in years to come, and is nearly impossible to reverse, given the fact that the 1%-2%-3% circuit breakers have been enshrined in the Indiana Constitution.

Just for an illustration of the harm that the circuit breakers are doing to our schools, I pulled together some of the higher circuit breaker cuts for various school corporations around the state (for 2013).  I also included their 2014 amounts budgeted for transportation for comparison.

2013 School Circuit Breaker Losses

2013 School Circuit Breaker Losses

We are fortunate in Monroe County that, due to our relatively low property taxes and high assessed values, our school corporations have been relatively insulated from the effects of the tax caps.  Just for comparison, here are the same numbers for our two Monroe County school corporations:

2013 MC Circuit Breaker Losses

2013 Monroe County Schools Circuit Breaker Losses

However, we can’t assume that we will always be insulated from this erosion of revenue. The 2014 circuit breaker numbers will be released shortly, and we will be able to assess the impacts on all local units of government.

Note: the sources for these numbers were:

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Follow-Up to County Council Work Session 2014-03-25

26 Mar

Yesterday I posted a preview to yesterday’s County Council work session. Here is a quick summary of the actions taken at that work session:

  • Public Defenders: After many months of discussion, the Council took the final actions to reclassify 7 Deputy Public Defenders from Executive I to Executive II level, and, per the County’s compensation policy, raise each of their salaries $9133, in order to provide equity between the Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, per a mandate by the State Public Defender Commission. The vote was 6-1, with Councilor Langley voting “no”.
  • Plan Commission: Again, after many months of discussion, the Council amended the salary ordinance to pay each member of the Plan Commission $50 per month per meeting attended, up to $150 per month. This vote was closer: Councilors Dietz, McKim, Munson, and Yoder voted “yes”, Langley and Hawk voted “no”, and  Jones, who, as the Council appointee to the Plan Commission will directly benefit from this policy, abstained.
  • Juvenile COIT
    • The Council heard detailed presentations from Youth Services Bureau Executive Director Kim Meyer (and her staff) on the services provided at the Binkley House Youth Shelter, and from Judge Steven Galvin on the history of juvenile services in Monroe County and the need for an increase in the Juvenile COIT income tax rate
    • Both presentations were terrific and are a must-see for anyone interested in youth services in Monroe County. Their slides are available here:
    • Judge Galvin recommended that the Juvenile COIT rate be raised from the current 0.05% to between 0.08% and 0.085%, depending on the youth services costs that the Council would choose to move from other funds to the Juvenile COIT fund. 0.085% would likely be adequate to cover existing costs and mandatory annual increases for the next 3-5 years. Of course, the revenue that an income tax brings in depends on the income earned by Monroe County residents, and could go up or down; if the income tax brings in too little or too much money, the rate would have to be reexamined.
    • All councilors expressed strong support both for the judicial philosophy expressed by our juvenile justice and social services system — treatment over incarceration — and for an increase in the Juvenile COIT rate to support our youth services. The major area of discussion was whether certain expenses related to the maintenance of our youth services facilities (utilities, maintenance costs, facilities replacement costs, etc.) could also be paid for by the Juvenile COIT , and thereby relieving other overstressed county funds such as the General Fund and the Cumulative Capital Development fund. In order to develop a set of recommendations for the facilities maintenance costs that could potentially be moved from other funds to the Juvenile COIT fund, I created a subcommittee of Councilors Hawk, Jones, and Yoder, who will work with Council Attorney Michael Flory, the Courts staff, and the Commissioners’ Office to analyze past and future essential expenditures on the Youth Shelter property.
    • It is important to note that this proposed increase to the Juvenile COIT rate would only be sufficient to fund current services. As good an investment as youth services is to the future of the community, we are not even at a point where we can fund expansion; the best we can do is maintain current services and current expenditures in an environment in which costs are continually increasing and revenue (in particular the reimbursements we receive from the state for judicial placements in the youth shelter) is declining dramatically.
    • The Council has advertised a public hearing on the potential increase in the Juvenile COIT rate at its regular meeting on 2014-04-08 at 5:30PM.

This meeting was televised by CATS and be seen here:

And the Herald Times also published a wrap-up article on the meeting here:

Preview of Today’s Monroe County Council Work Session (2014-03-25)

25 Mar

courthouseThe agenda for this evening’s Monroe County Council work session is available here:

The following are the highlights:

  • Public Defender: The Council will hold a second reading of (and take a vote on) a salary ordinance amendment to provide a salary increase for 7 deputy public defenders who were reclassified from the Executive I (EXE I) classification to Executive II (EXE II), as part of a mandate from the State Public Defender Commission to provide for an equivalency between the Public Defender’s and the Prosecutor’s offices. I have written more about this here. The salary increases did not pass unanimously on first reading two weeks ago (Councilor Langley voted “no”), so they have to be voted on again.
  • Plan Commission: Again, the Council will hold a second reading of and take a vote on a salary ordinance amendment to provide a salary increase for members of the Plan Commission. The proposal is to pay each member $50 per month per meeting attended, up to $150 per month. I have written more about this here. Again, the salary increases did not pass unanimously on first reading two weeks ago (Councilor Langley voted “no”), so they have to be voted on again.
  • Juvenile COIT: The council will hear a presentation from Judge Steven Galvin, the juvenile court judge, and Kim Meyer, the Executive Director of the Youth Shelter, on the need to both reauthorize and increase the rate of the Juvenile County Option Income Tax (Juvenile COIT).
    • The Juvenile COIT is a special income tax rate only applicable to Monroe County (IC §6-3.5-6-33) of up to 0.25% specifically to fund a juvenile detention center and other juvenile services (including the youth shelter and the juvenile court).
    • The current rate is 0.05%. The County Council  has advertised the possibility of raising the rate up to 0.1%, although they can also set a lower rate (advertising sets the maximum rate that can be considered).
    • Tonight’s meeting will be discussion only; the Council will conduct a public hearing during the regular County Council meeting on April 8, 2014 at 5:30 PM in the Nat U Hill Room in the Monroe County Courthouse.
    • The reasons for the proposed increase are to continue to fund existing services and possibly to move some additional juvenile court-related expenses that are currently in the general COIT fund into the juvenile COIT fund.
  • County Council: Several County Council members will provide a brief financial update, with a more detailed update to come after the end of the first quarter (March 31).

The meeting will be tonight, Tuesday, 2014-03-25, at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. As always, all meetings are open to the public.  Although this is a work session, not a regular meeting, and so there is no general public comment on items not on the agenda, we will take public comment on the items for which votes may be taken: the proposed public defender reclassifications and the proposed increase in compensation for Plan Commission members.

Hope to see you there!

 

Business Personal Property Tax Bill Senate Enrolled Act 1 Final as General Assembly Adjourns

15 Mar

WestsideThe Indiana General Assembly adjourned sine die late this past Thursday, having passed Senate Enrolled Act 1 (SEA 1), a much-discussed bill on business taxes, including so-called business personal property taxes (i.e. taxes on business equipment).

The act wound up being much more tentative than initially filed, and far less than what the Governor had originally proposed (full elimination of the business personal property tax). The act is awaiting the Governor’s signature at the moment.

Business Personal Property Taxes

There are three primary effects of Senate Enrolled Act 1 with respect to business personal property. All are optional for local governments.

1. Counties have the option of exempting business personal property from taxation if the acquisition costs of the property is less than $20,000.

2. Counties have the option of exempting new (non-utility) business personal property from taxation. The county can also repeal the exemption; however, any business personal property placed into service while the exemption is in effect remains exempt.

Both of these options for exemption would be exercised by the County Income Tax Council — a body that is sometimes referred to as the “phantom council”, and that I have criticized before. In Monroe County, this means that any decision for exemption would be made by the Bloomington City Council.

In addition:

3. Counties may grant abatements for new business personal property placed into service on a case-by-case basis for up to 20 years, rather than the usual maximum of 10 years. These up-to-20-year-abatements have been referred to in the media as “super-abatements”. The usual annual reporting and accountability requirements (i.e., compliance with the Statement of Benefits filed when the abatement is applied for) apply for these super-abatements. In addition, a public hearing is required after the 10th year of the abatement to address compliance with the Statement of Benefits.

Blue Ribbon Commission

The act also establishes a commission on business personal property and business taxation. In principle, this is, in my opinion, the best part of the bill. However the composition of the commission also represents a missed opportunity.  The composition is as follows:

  • 2 members of the senate appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate (i.e., 2 Senate Republicans)
  • 1 member of the senate appointed by the minority leader of the senate (i.e., 1 Senate Democrat)
  • 2 members of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives (i.e, 2 House Republicans)
  • 1 member of the house of representatives appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives (i.e., 1 House Democrat)
  • The governor or the governor’s designee. An individual designated by the governor under this subdivision must be a state employee.
  • 1 member who is nominated by the Association of Indiana Counties and is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.
  • 1 member who is nominated by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.
  • 1 member who is nominated by the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.
  • 1 member who is nominated by the Indiana Manufacturers Association and is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.
  • 1 member who is nominated by the Indiana Association of School Business Officials and is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.
  • 1 member to represent agriculture who is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.
  • 1 member who is nominated by the Indiana Association of Realtors and is appointed jointly by the chairman and the vice chairman of the legislative council.

The commission’s charge is the following:

(1) Study issues concerning the taxation of business personal property in Indiana and business taxation in general in
Indiana.
(2) Study issues related to the share of the overall tax burden borne by businesses in Indiana.
(3) Study the competitive advantages and disadvantages for businesses in Indiana that result from the structure of state and local taxation of business.
(4) Study any special elements of the taxation of business personal property.
(5) Study issues related to property taxes paid by taxpayers (including individual taxpayers) other than business taxpayers, and the relative share of the overall tax burden borne by these taxpayers.
(6) Study the impact on local government of reducing business personal property taxes.
(7) Study the existing mechanisms and tools that may be used by local governments to address the effects of the circuit breaker credits under IC 6-1.1-20.6, and the extent to which these mechanisms and tools have been or have not been adopted and used.
(8) Study the impact of tax increment financing, including the impact of tax increment financing on local government.
(9) Study the issue of what number or percentage of votes by a county option income tax council should be required to eliminate property taxes on new business personal property in a county, if the county option income tax councils are given the authority to eliminate property taxes on such property.
(10) Study any other topics assigned by the legislative council or as directed by the chair of the commission

The act also gives the commission a due date of November 1, 2014 for its report.

The broad topics to be addressed by the commission are critical to designing a fair and effective system of taxation in Indiana. The business personal property tax is a holdover, and should ultimately be phased out (primarily because it taxes different types of businesses differently, depending on whether they use expensive equipment). However, the piecemeal approach to property tax restructuring that the legislature has used in the recent past is not effective. We need to rethink the whole system. How much should businesses pay vs. other classes of property owners, all of whom depend on government services. How do we strike the right balance between attracting and retaining businesses with well-funded public services and amenities vs. low taxes? How do economic incentives, such as TIFs and tax abatements, affect the attraction and retention of businesses, and how much do these economic incentives cost us? And what is the right mix of tax bases — property, income (both corporate and individual), and sales?

However, I said earlier that I thought the commission represented a missed opportunity in terms of its composition. The commission essentially consists entirely of politicians and representatives of special interest groups. I think the commission should have had at least some room for citizen appointees — for example, retired legislators who are no longer in a position to have to run for office could offer some valuable perspective without the need to cater to particular constituents. In addition, Indiana has several experts at IU and Purdue on tax policy — as well as the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute — who should be seated at that table.

Corporate and Financial Institution Taxes

The final effect of SEA 1 is to ratchet down two corporate taxes: the corporate income tax rate and the financial institutions tax (FIT), but over a longer period of time than initially proposed.

  • The corporate income tax rate will be reduced from 6.5% in 2015 to 4.9% after June 30, 2021.
  • The financial institutions tax rate will be reduced from 6.5% to 4.9% through calendar year 2023.

Both of these reductions, although relatively gradual, will result in reductions to state revenue, and thus will come at the expense of some other public service. Roads? Schools? Social services?

In addition, although it hasn’t been discussed at all, as far as I know, the reduction in the financial institutions tax will affect local governments somewhat. Currently, local governments receive 40% of the previous year’s financial institutions tax from the state.

Conclusion

This was one of the highest-profile issues in this year’s General Assembly session (other than a constitutional gay marriage ban, of course, which will thankfully not be on the ballot this November). But after a lot of discussion and debate, the end result was something that will likely have little benefit but also cause little harm. Although I think that having a county-by-county option for reducing or eliminating business personal property taxes may encourage a race to the bottom in some places, that effect will be very limited, and in any case I very much prefer having the option retained by local government rather than having the tax reductions forced on local governments. I look forward the report from the business tax commission — but wish that Larry DeBoer or someone of his caliber and expertise were sitting at the table. And finally I remain concerned about the long-term reduction of the corporate and financial institutions taxes, even though the reduction is phased in over a long period of time.

 

Time Value of Money Analysis in Calculating the Costs and Benefits of Large Projects

13 Mar

Screenshot 2014-03-13 19.14.02Time Value of Money

This posting is going to be a little bit different from my typical blog postings, in that I’m going to write about a more general analytic concept that is particularly important to keep in mind when trying to understand projects that are either paid for or receive revenues over a period of time — a concept that is often called the “time value of money“.

This posting is prompted by many comments that I have heard from friends, colleagues, fellow public officials, and other community members in reaction to the controversial decision by the Indiana Finance Authority to award a 35-year contract to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance section 5 of I-69, a 21-mile segment of I-69 from south of Bloomington to south of Martinsville — a so-called Public-Private Partnership, or P3.

Please note that the following discussion does not in any way address the issue of whether building the highway at all is a good investment by the state. All it does is address the issue of paying for a large project like this over time vs. paying for it with current revenues/cash on hand.

I-69 Example

Without getting too far into the weeds on the specifics, the arrangement is that the State of Indiana will pay a contractor $21.8M per year for 35 years for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and financing of the 21-mile section of highway. The government estimate of the cost of the design and construction of the highway was around $350M. However, if take the $21.8M per year times 35 years, you get a total of $763M. The claim that has been made, therefore,  is that by using this P3 financing vehicle in which payments are made to the contractor over time, that the government is paying more than double for the highway than it would if paid through conventional means (i.e., up front, with cash).

However, this conclusion ignores the time value of money (TVOM).  The basic principle behind TVOM is that a given amount of money today is worth more than it is at some future point. When you think about it, this should be self-evident; just ask yourself: given the choice, would you prefer $100 to be given to you right now or in a year? Once you accept that premise, the next question is how much more is that given amount of money worth today than it is at a future point? The answer is: a given amount of money is worth more today than it is at some future point by the amount you could earn by investing (or otherwise using) that given amount of money until that future point.

In order to compare alternative investments (or financing schemes) that are made over various periods of time, we need to make sure we compare apples to apples. One way to do that is to convert all alternatives to present value (PV) and then compare. Let’s consider our I-69 example. In that example, the state will be paying the contractor $21.8M per year over 35 years. However, the $21.8M in year 2 is not worth as much as the $21.8M in year 1, and the $21.8M in year 35 is certainly not worth as much as it is in year 1. So how do we convert the entire 35-year payout to Present Value, as though it were all being paid out immediately? And more importantly — how do we compare the 35-year payout against a $350M cost if the design and construction were paid out of cash today.

Basically, we discount future payments by the amount of money we could earn on the money we save by not having to pay it this year! How much do we discount it by — in other words, how do we compute the present value?

Quick Mathematical Interlude

I’m going to take a moment to do a little math here; however, if you want to skip to the next section, you won’t lose much of the overall argument. The actual equation is: PV = FV / (1+i)^n, in which PV is Present Value, FV is Future Value, i is the interest rate per period that you could earn on the money, and n is the number of periods that you could earn that interest rate. For a quick example, let’s consider the following alternatives:

  • Alternative A: I give you $100 today
  • Alternative B: I give you $100 a year from today

First of all, we know that alternative A — the $100 I give you today has a present value of $100.To to compare it to alternative B (I give you $100 a year from now), though, we need to compute the present value today of the $100 I pay you a year from now. In the above equation, $100 is the future value (FV) — the amount that the $100 paid in one year will be worth at the time it is paid. i is the interest rate that we could be earning per year (or per any time period) with the $100.  This is where TVOM analysis gets a little squishy, and the results you get can differ a lot depending on your assumptions. How much money can you earn with $100 in a year? Depends a lot on how you invest it! If in a savings account, almost nothing — less than 1%. However many investments earn quite a bit more than a savings account. One number that is considered pretty fair to use is the average municipal bond rate. At the very least, the municipal bond rate can be considered a good proxy for the opportunity costs of the money over a given period of time.

The following Web site provides municipal bond rates for various maturity ranges and credit ratings:

Just for the sake of this example, I’m going to take a national rate for a 10-year bond with AAA credit rating (which Indiana has) — an interest rate of 2.20% per year (of course, this amount may change).

Going back to our equation, we have: FV = $100, i = 0.022 (the 2.2% interest rate), and n=1 (1 year). The present value of that $100 paid out in a year is: PV = 100/(1+0.022)^1 = 100/1.022 = $97.85. In other words, with the assumptions we made, $100 paid to you a year from now is only worth $97.85 today.

I-69 Example, Revisited

OK, so let’s apply the TVOM principle to analyzing the 35-year contract for Section 5 of I-69.  For the purposes of illustrating TVOM in comparing the 35-year contract with a conventional financing (i.e. paying for the project out of current tax receipts and cash balance), I am simplifying the situation dramatically in the following way: the 35-year $21.8M/year payout to the contractor does not only include the design and construction of the road, but also the operations and maintenance of the road — money that would have had to be spent anyway in all 35 of the outyears regardless of the method of financing the design and construction of the road. If we really want to compare alternatives fairly, we would subtract out the costs of maintaining and operating the road for all 35 years — figures I don’t have close to hand. So this TVOM analysis can really be considered to be a worst-case from the perspective of the P3 scenario. In other words, the real cost of the P3 versus conventional financing is much more in the favor of P3 than it is in the following numbers.

I created the following table for all 35 years of payments (all numbers are in millions). The first column, Payment, shows the actual payment made to the contractor each year for the 35 year period of performance. The following 5 columns show how much those 35 years of annual payments are worth today (the only fair way to compare the arrangement against a conventional financing arrangement where the whole thing is paid with cash/current taxes), using 5 different interest rate assumptions (1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, and 5%). For a project of this size, given the municipal bond rates for 30 year bonds for AAA credit, the most realistic assumption is probably somewhere around 4% (from the recent past history of municipal bonds, probably a little under 4%).

Time Value of Money I-69 Example

Time Value of Money I-69 Example

So with the 4% interest rate assumption, we can see that the present value of 35 years of $21.8M annual payments is not $763M (i.e. 35 times $21.8M), but the much lower $406.89M. Obviously that number changes depending on the interest rate assumption. The higher the interest rate, the lower the present value. This should make intuitive sense: the more opportunity I have to make use of the money up front, the less valuable it is for me to have the money in the future compared to the present.

So to get back to our hypothetical-not-so-hypothetical example. We want to compare paying for a $350M highway construction project out of current dollars against the 35-year $21.8M/year P3 arrangement. With our assumption of 4% interest rate, the present value (cost) of the 35-year arrangement is $406.89M, compared to $350M if paid in cash — more, to be sure — but dramatically less than simply adding up the 35 annual payments ($763M).  And again, this doesn’t even include the fact that some of the annual payments cover the costs of maintenance and operations of the highway, which would be paid out anyway, regardless of how the design and construction are financed.

Conclusion

 None of this discussion should be taken as an endorsement of the P3 process, or the fact that the P3 financing model basically guarantees that the winning contractor will be a large multinational corporation with deep access to finance. But I do want to make sure that as we move forward with an arrangement that by all accounts will only become more common, discussions of these kinds of arrangements are based on facts. And the fact is that a given sum of money is less valuable in the future than it is today.  Most certainly we will be paying more for the privilege of stretching out the payments for the road over 35 years. But we won’t be paying double…not even close.

Agenda for Tomorrow’s Monroe County Council Meeting (2014-03-11)

10 Mar
Monroe County Courthouse in the Fall

Monroe County Courthouse in the Fall

The agenda for tomorrow’s Monroe County Council meeting is available here:

Highlights of the agenda include:

  • Request from the Unified Courts to fill a vacant associate court reporter position in Division VIII (Judge Haughton’s Court). Division VIII handles small claims, divorces, protective orders and civil miscellaneous cases. The policy issue that the Council will need to consider is whether it intends to cut positions during 2014 (in which case, vacant positions would be the obvious positions to cut) or simply hold the line against new positions. Unfortunately requests such as the one for increased compensation for deputy public defenders, mandated by the Public Defender Commission and considered later in this meeting, make simply holding the line against increases nearly impossible.
  • Request for approval of an additional appropriation from the Legal Department for collection fees and penalty payments collected from delinquent personal property taxpayers.
    • By statute and local ordinance, county attorneys (including the County Council attorney) are permitted to make efforts to collect delinquent personal property tax on their own time (i.e., after business hours) on behalf of the county. If they are successful (i.e., the county collects the delinquent tax), they are allowed to assess an attorney fee, which the delinquent taxpayer pays, and the county attorney receives in compensation. This fund receives these attorney fees, and must be appropriated annually in order for the county attorneys to receive compensation. No tax money goes into this fund or is paid out to attorneys; the fee is assessed on top of the delinquent taxes, and the attorney is only compensated if they are successful on behalf of the county.
    • This arrangement at times raises controversies, and there have been proposals to outsource the collection of delinquent personal property taxes to commercial collection agencies. However, the counterarguments to these proposals include that (a) the arrangement does not cost the county anything; (b) that the collection cases that the attorneys work on are the more complex cases that the collection agency wouldn’t take on anyway; and (c) that the county attorneys are more likely to be diplomatic with taxpayers than a collection agency.
  •  Appropriation of the 2014 annual budget for the County Fair. This is a new procedure for the County Council; in previous years, the County Council has not actually appropriated the budget for the County Fair, although county tax revenues are used to fund it. 
  • Appropriation of a $2K Homeland Security SHSP County Planning grant and another $27K SHSP District Training Grant for the Department of Emergency Management
  • Transfer of $1000 from equipment to supplies for the Medical Reserve Corps grant fund in the Health Department
  • Request to raise the classification of 8 deputy public defenders from EXE I classification to EXE II.
    • This is the latest round in a long series of discussions between the Council and the Public Defender’s Office, set off by a mandate by the Indiana Public Defender Commission that specified that in order to participate in the state Public Defender reimbursement program (in which 40% of the costs of felony cases are reimbursed by the state), counties must (a) compensate the Chief Public Defender and the Chief Deputy Public Defender at the same rate as their counterparts in the Prosecutor’s Office; and (b) compensate Deputy Public Defenders (i.e, the attorneys who work in the Public Defender’s Office).
    • The Council already approved the first mandate last month, after much discussion about the Council’s frustration with the unfunded/underfunded nature of the mandates from the Public Defender Commission. After absorbing the impact of these mandates, the Council will have to seriously consider whether we can continue to afford to participate in the state reimbursement program.
    • For this reclassification request, because the mandate from the Public Defender Commission requires the county to pay deputy public defenders the same based on the nature of their work and their years of experience as their counterparts in the Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Defender is requesting that 8 (out of 12) of their positions be raised to the higher (EXE II) level. This is because, unlike in the Prosecutor’s Office, where they choose to organize their department around the criminal courts, in which each of the four criminal courts has a felony deputy prosecutor (classified at an EXE II) and a misdemeanor deputy (classified at an EXE I), the Public Defender distributes his felony cases across all deputies. This arrangement makes sense from the perspective of case management, but also in this case has the perverse effect of actually increasing the the number of top-level staff in the Public Defender’s office above the level in the Prosecutor’s Office. Despite the mandate, I expect this issue to generate some significant controversy tomorrow night.
  • A proposal to increase the compensation of County Plan Commission members. This issue has been discussed over the past several months. The proposal on the table for tomorrow is:
    • “Members of the Plan Commission shall be compensated for attendance at the regular monthly meeting of the Plan Commission and other official meetings and committee meetings of the Plan Commission according to the following schedule: $50 for attendance at the regular monthly meeting of the Plan Commission, and $50 for attendance at any other official meeting or official committee meeting during that same month, with a cap of $150 payment for attendance at meetings during the course of any calendar month.”

The meeting will be tomorrow, Tuesday, 2014-03-11, at 5:30PM in the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. As always, all meetings are open to the public, and public comment on items not on the agenda will be taken at the beginning of the meeting. Hope to see you there!