The funding for a new Bartholomew County annex on State Street is still up in the air, despite the County Council’s recent decision to pay for $3.25 million of the project out of county coffers.
County Auditor Barb Hackman asked the council during its Tuesday night meeting to reconsider their decision not to borrow money for the project. She explained that the overall price tag for the new building would be $4 million. As it currently stands, the project will be funded with the $3.25 million from funds controlled by the council, while the balance would be paid for out of funds controlled by the Bartholomew County Commissioners.
Hackman explained that the commissioners’ share of the money would likely need to come from county economic development income tax funds. However, she says that the commissioners do not feel comfortable using that money as a majority of this year’s CEDIT funds have already been budgeted for roads and other needs. Last year, Hackman noted that $1 million in CEDIT funds were spent to shore up the county employee trust shortfall that came about after several large health insurance claims.
She added that the county has only been getting about $1.8 million each year in CEDIT funds. Hackman said there is real concern that moving ahead as planned would result in a number of deferred maintenance items.
Hackman explained that bonding for the new annex is the best thing for everyone, as it would not result in a financial hit for the county. She explained that a 15-year bond could be repaid exclusively from county income taxes. Hackman reminded the council that its financial adviser is recommending the bonding option over paying for the building out of cash reserves. Failure to do so, she says, would drop the county’s Rainy Day Fund to approximately $1.5 million, cause delays in capital improvements and lower the county’s A+ bond rating.
Four council members, Jorge Morales, Laura DeDomenic, Bill Lentz and Evelyn Pence, voted against bonding for the project last month and Hackman’s presentation did not change their minds. Morales, DeDomenic and Lentz all said that they were hearing mixed messages coming from the commissioners and said they did not feel comfortable moving forward without meeting with them again, in person.
Morales added, “I am fully committed to finding the money to fund a $4 million annex.” However, he added that he is confused and wants to hear directly from the commissioners. Pence suggested that any agreement between the two bodies would need to be in writing.
No action was taken during Tuesday night’s meeting and no appointment has been scheduled for the two bodies to meet.