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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Editorial: Lawrence County Budget and Property Taxes Increase in Lawrence County

LAWRENCE COUNTY - (April 18, 2022) - Republican office holders tout they are the fiscal conservatives of government and hold the line on taxes and spending.

After opening the mail up this week, and during this election season taxpayers may be asking a lot of questions on whether this is actually true.

Budgets and property taxes climb in Lawrence County

This budget year, Lawrence County Council members passed the highest budget on record at over $27 million and most taxpayers in Lawrence County seen a five percent increase in property taxes this year.

Property taxes generated over $36 Million dollars in revenue for Lawrence County government, with $2.8 Million in delinquent tax payments last year.

However, one could challenge whether spending and taxes are really in check, with no direction in how to hold the line on spending.

During this year's budget cycle, the Lawrence County Council passed double digit raises for county elected leaders, while the county employees got a single digit raise. Could the county council have waited for that large of an increase, as one county council member suggested?

The county employees and elected leaders got no pay increase in 2021, with county officials claiming there was not enough revenue coming in.

However, county council members maintained there was more than enough revenue for pay increases for thiz years, pay increases.

The county council members also are claiming, that the elected leaders are under paid for the area.

Other budget line items also seen increases for each department.

The budgets for the public defender's office were projected at $1 Million with county council members cutting the budget to just over $800,000. But, with contracted lawyers, and staffing issues the public defender's budget could reach just under $1 Million despite the cuts by the county council.

Prior to the vote on the pay increases for county elected officials; Lawrence County Council members debated one hour and half during an October budget hearing on whether the Lawrence County Purdue Extension Agency needed a third educator.

It was suggested by Lawrence County Council members that the position could be cut.

The position pays approximately $33,000 but, council members finally came up with a compromise to the funding the position.

The compromise was that Lawrence County Lesley Lodmell would have to raise half of the funds by the next budget hearing or the position would be cut.

Lodmell stated that there are many programs that the Purdue educators are a part of throughout the county.

Lodmell sought private donations to fund the position and was able to keep the position until the next year budget cycle.

There were no other suggestions made by the Lawrence County Council to any other officer holder.

After that lengthy debate, a request was made to get the Lawrence County Council to appropriate approximately $60,000 for improvements at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds with declining attendance over the last serval years have left the Lawrence County 4-H Groups challenged in making improvements at the fairgrounds.

(Lawrence County RDC and Lawrence County Council is trying to fund improvement projects at the Lawrence County 4-H Fairgrounds this year)

The Lawrence County 4-H Improvement fund will also be overseen by the Lawrence County Commissioners to make sure the money is spent wisely.

Earlier last week the Lawrence County Redevelopment Commission has proposed using the remaining Marshall Township TIF funds to install air conditioning and paving project at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds.

The Lawrence County Fairgrounds is not owned by the county, but by the Lawrence County Fair board which is a non-profit organization.

Sheriff Mike Branham warns he will need additional $60,000 for fuel costs at the end of this year

The Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham has also warned; he will be asking for additional $60,000 due to rising fuel costs. This comes after already passing a budget of about $ 4 Million to operate the sheriff's department and jail.

There will always be the need for essential services such as public safety, roads and bridges. But how should county council members decide on a proper balance in taxes and spending?

Do you think our county officials have done a good job in both spending and keeping taxes in line?

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