More Discussion about Funding for Volunteer Fire Departments and New Financial Software for the County? Preview of Monroe County Council Work Session 2016-02-23

23 Feb

2016 County Council MembersThis evening’s work session of the Monroe County Council (5:30 PM in the Nat U Hill Room) will feature two topics: funding for volunteer fire departments and potential new financial software for the county.

Funding for Volunteer Fire Departments

At the last regular session, the Council appropriated $5000 for each fire department in the county with a volunteer component (8 total fire departments) from revenues received by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources from timber sales from state forests located in Monroe County.  This was the amount requested by the County Commissioners — $2500 for each fire department from 2014-2015 revenues and $2500 for 2011-2012 revenues (somehow the county neglected to make the distribution to fire departments in 2012).

I provided a little more background on the timber sales distributions here.

The reason for tonight’s discussion is that some councilors, and in particular Council President Cheryl Munson, who has been strongly involved in volunteer fire departments through her service in Indian Creek Township, think that the distribution requested by the County Commissioners ($2500 per department) is too low compared to the need. The statute that requires the timber sales distribution to volunteer fire departments earmarks up to 50% of the timber sales revenue for fire departments, if the Commissioners request it. For this year (2014-2015), this would mean that the Commissioners could have requested up to $4955 per fire department.

The purpose of this discussion tonight is to explore options and interest in providing additional funding for fire departments.  For additional background, here is some data on county distributions of timber sales revenues to volunteer fire departments from 2005-present:

Screenshot 2016-02-23 06.27.38

County Financial Software

A an item that is not yet on the agenda will likely be discussed. The county council is still under discussions to potentially fund the purchase of new financial software. We are considering, upon request from the Auditor’s Office, the purchase of financial software from Low Associates to replace the County’s aging Harris Open Window financial system.

A representative from Low is anticipated to be at the work session to answer Council questions, as will the County’s Director of Technical Services (IT).

Costs of the new software (including installation, implementation, and training) are estimated at $188,236, plus an additional $37,176 in annual maintenance expenses. Discussions will likely center around (1) should the County move forward in purchasing the new financial software; (2) if so, when, and (3) if so, how should we pay for it. Options for funding the software include cash on hand from County Option Income Tax (COIT) revenues, the Commissioners’ Cumulative Capital Development fund, and a potential future General Obligation (GO) bond.

The packet for the meeting is available here: Council_Work_Session_Packet_20160223. However, it probably won’t be particularly useful — there is no detail on the timber sales issue, and the Low software discussion is a last-minute addition.

As always, the meeting is open to the public and will be televised on CATS. Hope to see you there!

 

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