As Budget Adoption approaches on Monday, October 10 at 9 a.m. in Room 203 of the Marshall County Building, Marshall County Council members have discussed the budget in multiple regular meetings and additional work sessions.
According to Budget Form 4-B the cash balance on June 30th for Marshall County was $10,104,841, property taxes yet to be collected were in the amount of $3,204,732, miscellaneous revenues totaled $1,392,888 leaving a total cash and revenues balance of $14,702,461.
After an estimated $973,555 in additional appropriations to be disbursed before the end of the year, the estimated cash balance for December 31, 2022 is $13,728,906. That balance gives Marshall County approximately one year of funding to rely on in the event of economic catastrophe. The pandemic and inflation have illustrated that economic turmoil can and does happen. It not only impacts individuals but it impacts government entities.
The Property Tax Levy for Budget Year 2023 was advertised at $9,515,852, the Property Tax Cap Impact at $412,703, with miscellaneous revenues advertised in the amount of $4,315,604 for a total of $13,418,753 in total revenues.
Advertised expenses for the 2023 Budget were estimated at $15,832,673. According to Marshall County Auditor Julie Fox, although that number exceeds the expected revenue Marshall County has consistently operated conservatively in years past. It is not unusual for the county to approve a budget slightly above the estimated revenues. In 2022, the council approved a budget of $15,866,444 with an estimated revenue total of $14,899,125 and is still set to finish the year with a healthy balance due to conservative spending.
The Net Assessed Value for Property Taxes in Marshall County were advertised at $2,389,133,151 with an advertised Property Tax Rate of 0.3938. The Net Assessed Value for Property Taxes in 2022 was $2,271,299,223. The Property Tax Rate is actually lower than 2022 which was 0.3991.
Wages were a topic of conversation during several meetings as Department Heads have grappled with the ever increasing demand of attracting and retaining staff. Though other counties across Indiana, and other states across the nation have had the same battles to face – Marshall County has spent hours deliberating possible solutions.
There was much deliberation regarding the $4500 increase for all county employees during the Budget Hearing held in September. Several Department Heads requested over the $4500 a year, others declined their own raises including some elected officials.
During the budget hearing in September, the council approved a wage scale which provided at least a $2.00 increase, sometimes more, to employees. The least amount of raise discussed was $2.00 an hour which totaled $3,640 for employees working 1820 hours a year, $3,888 for employees working 1944 hours a year, and $4,160 for employees working 2080 hours a year.
During a work session held on Friday, September 30, the council met in the Commissioner’s Room to discuss the budget and tackle the topic of wages in more detail. In a work session, no official action can be taken. The meeting was called by Fox to provide the council with an opportunity for discussion before the Budget Adoption Hearing in October.
Auditor Fox said it is hard to apply variables without a foundation for calculating wage increases. Salary, category and schedule were a topic of discussion. For instance the Coroner position is currently considered part-time as an elected official. Per policy an Elected Official gets full time benefits regardless of full or part time status. Coroner John Grolich had approached the council during the budget hearing regarding a reclassification of his position to full-time indicating that some weeks he has to work in excess of 40 hours. Council member Jon VanVactor said that having to work a death investigation or a homicide can be time consuming. The Coroner’s salary is much lower than any other full-time Department Head.
The salary for the Drug Court Coordinator was discussed. Two $5,000 annual stipends were requested for the position. Auditor Fox reminded the council that when the Drug Court was established, the council was informed that there would be no request for a wage increase. Auditor Fox was not sure whether the stipend requested was meant to replace the funding that is already being provided to the position or if it was an increase of $10,000. The Emergency Management Director requested additional funding to train his replacement, which is partially grant funded.
Several other Department Heads had requested substantial increases including the Prosecutor’s Office for Prosecuting Attorneys noting a challenge to attract and retain employees.
As of the work session Friday, the Justice Partners Addictions Response Grant award had not been received by the Probation Office. That grant is not typically awarded until later in the year but still might require an alteration to the salary ordinance.
Even when budget requests are cut, Department Heads are welcome to approach the council for additional appropriations throughout the year. Fox said that this helps keep the council informed and provides an opportunity for the Department Head to illustrate need in real-time.
At the root of the wage debate is the Marshall County Job Classification and Compensation System adopted by the County Council on October 14, 2019 by Ordinance 2019-20A and 2019-20B.
According to public record, that system was developed by Waggoner, Irwin, and Scheele & Associates (WIS) who worked alongside a Personnel Committee established by the County Council which consisted of three council members, the auditor, and the Human Resource Director. WIS did not set the wages or establish the Salary Ordinance. They were contracted by the council to perform the evaluation; they only factored the job descriptions to place them in an appropriate job category and ranked them within that category.
The system was established using a Factor Evaluation System which was developed by the United States Department of Labor in the early 1970’s. That system establishes an unbiased system of classification by categories and uses an unbiased chart to assign points to each position. From there, the factor point totals were compared to salaries to ensure “equal pay for equal work”. The County Council then sets the pay for each position by Salary Ordinance.
To implement the Factor Evaluation System, the team collected job information, wrote position descriptions, classified the positions, determined factor evaluations and conducted a wage analysis.
The written positions descriptions included job requirements, skills and knowledge, difficulty of work, responsibility, personal work relationships, physical efforts, and working conditions/work environment.
Seven job categories were established which were: Professional, Administrative, Technological (PAT), Computer, Office Machine Operator, Technician (COMOT), Protective Occupations, Law Enforcement (POLE), Labor, Trades and Crafts (TLC), Executive (EXE), Special Operations (SO), and Unclassified (U).
Once those position descriptions were established, each positions was evaluated by WIS and further finalized based on part-time or full-time status and rate of pay. Those categories include COMOT 1 – part-time and rate of pay, COMOT 2 – full-time and rate of pay (there are 13 employees in this category), COMOT 3 – full-time and rate of pay (there are 25 employees in this category), COMOT 4 – full-time and rate of pay (there are 18 employees in this category), and COMOT 5 – full time and rate of pay (there are ten employees in this category).
The Factor Evaluation System ensures that each employee, regardless of which office or department they work for, is guaranteed “equal pay for equal work”.
Even when raises requested are fee-based or grant-based, it is expected that they are still in line with the salary ordinance.
It has been discussed in previous meetings that most county employees do have more benefits and a more family friendly work schedule than many in the private sector. Elected Officials and Department Heads have additional benefits to their position including take home vehicles depending on the department. The Marshall County Human Resources Department confirmed that full-time county employees have a robust benefits package including Medical Insurance Benefits, Retirement Benefit options, and a robust Paid Time Off (PTO), Sick Days and Vacation Policy.
Council members also discussed the Special Local Income Tax (LIT). Auditor Fox made it clear to Council Members that if the Special LIT ceases to be collected at some point in the near future, for whatever reason, the Council will have to adjust the local Income Tax to maintain operations of the Marshall County Correctional Facility as the General Fund and other current sources of revenue cannot sustain those expenses without the Special LIT.
Final adjustments can be made during the Final Adoption Meeting on Monday, October 10th. Wages will be finalized in the Salary Ordinance. The published budget notice can be found online at budgetnotices.in.gov.
A reminder that starting in January, the County Council will meet on the second Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.
Article provided by our news partners at the Pilot News, Jamie Fleury Staff Writer