An issue that surfaced at the end of December was brought back up by the Marshall County Council, this week.
Several department heads attended the meeting to seek clarification on exactly how budget transfers between major categories are approved. Budgetary line items are required by the state of Indiana to remain in the black.
According to the discussion, however, certain expenses are paid prior to County Council approval following County Commissioner approval. Council member Steve Harper says the research he’s done indicated a level of spending may need to be set prior to consideration.
“We do have to plan, and we do have to set a budget, and if we’ve got some of these large [transfers], that should probably be done in a public forum,” says Harper.
Issues of trust of the department heads were brought up. Typically the County Council spends time tediously approving transfers between major budget categories, sometimes with figures as low as $1.
Department heads questioned what happens if an item is paid, but does not receive approval by the County Council. What has worked in the past was largely agreed needed a policy change.
The Marshall County Auditor’s office also pays what are called “prepays” such as insurance and credit card expenses. Council member Jon Van Vactor says he doesn’t like how budget changes are immediately made after a careful review by the Council for the year.
“Is it called micromanaging? Not really micromanaging,” says Van Vactor. “It’s called being transparent. It’s called being accountable so that we know what we’re doing financially.”
Attempts to keep the status quo for the transfer requests failed a vote. A follow-up proposal to allow bills under $5-thousand to be paid without Council approval was adopted.
The new proposal looks to remedy the problem of line items running in the red for short periods of time while improving the operation of various county departments.