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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

In a 4-2 Vote Lawrence County Council approves Comprehensive Financial Plan - Commissioners to vote Tuesday

LAWRENCE COUNTY - MARCH 11, 2024 - The Lawrence County Council voted 4-2 in favor of a contract with BakerTilly to present a Comprehensive Financial Plan just prior to the 2025 budget hearings.

Photo: Paula Stewart appointed Auditor for Lawrence County requested a Comprehensive Financial Plan and Capital Improvement Plan from BakerTilley to help with the budget process

Council members Julie Chase, Janie "Craig" Chenault, Amy Redman, Julie Heweston voting "yes" and Rick Butterfield and Phil Inman voting "no", President Jeff Lytton could not vote on the measure.

The Lawrence County Commissioner will vote on the matter Tuesday morning.

Appointed Lawrence County Auditor Paula Stewart requested the overview of the county's finances.

BakerTilley will be paid $35,000 for their work on the Comprehensive Financial Plan the council decided against the Capital Improvement Plan at this time with an additional cost of $15,000.

The Lawrence County Council members over the last two budget hearings had a difficult time of knowing how much revenue and expenditures to justify raises for the county elected leaders, Lawrence County Sheriff's deputies, and other budget items throughout the process.

During the 2023 budget hearings Lawrence County Auditor Jessica Staggs brought in Jacque Clements from Indiana County Association to justify the significant pay raises for the county elected leaders.

The county council voted on the county's two highest budgets at $29 million in 2023 and this year's budget climbing to almost $37 million as county highway, and the county attorney asking for more pay after the 2024 budget had already ended.

The amended salary ordinances was approved last county council meeting after newly appointed Lawrence County Auditor finding several errors and increasing expenditures for 2024.

Original story: LAWRENCE COUNTY - FEBRUARY 13, 2024 - Following the Lawrence County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday morning the Lawrence County Commissioners and Lawrence County Council members along with department heads listened to a presentation by Heidi Amspaugh of Baker Tilley Financial Advisors.

Photo: Heidi Amspaugh of Baker Tilley Financial Advisors makes a presentation Tuesday morning to the Lawrence County Commissioners and Lawrence County Council members about a proposal for a Comprehensive Financial Plan and Capital Improvement Plan

Lawrence County Auditor Paula Stewart and Lawrence County Council member Amy Redman would like the county commissioners and county council members to consider developing a Comprehensive Financial Plan and Capital Improvement Plan.

Photo: Lawrence County Auditor Paula Stewart

" I had some good conversations before the caucus vote, as I was looking at the Auditors office. One of my peers mentioned they had this done. The light bulb went on, we can always use more information about our finances, we certainly do not pretend to be experts about government financing," said Paula Stewart in talking about the need for the plan.

" For example, I am not a CPA there are a lot of things, while we have good intentions to have good information and make good decisions about that information we simply do not have the knowledge or background to make the best decision,"

During the last two years of the budget process the Lawrence County Council members passed a record budgets with pay increases for county elected leaders and county employees.

However, during the 2023 Budget hearings former Lawrence County Auditor Jessica Staggs used three sets of numbers before the Lawrence County Council members voted on the raises and budget.

Lawrence County Council member Rick Butterfield was the only county council member to vote against the 2023 Budget due to the confusion on whether the county could afford the $29 million budget.

In 2024, Lawrence County Council members went on to pass a $35 million budget and that has climbed to almost $36 million after Lawrence County Council members approved pay raises for county highway workers and bridge crews in January.

Photo: Lawrence County Council woman Amy Redman supports a Comprehensive Financial Plan

" This is more information from the people that live it everyday, they see the trends all across the State of Indiana. It is truly a way to educate us, so we are finding the balance between revenue coming in, ( from the taxpayers) and the expenditures and the services we are providing to the county," said Amy Redman Lawrence County Council member.

The Comprehensive plan can give data 5 years out, and last two years of historical data to see where the county finances is going.

" As we heard them talk about the capital improvement plan this would be a different piece of the comprehensive financial plan, but anytime we can look ahead and anticipate our expenditures, we are going to set ourselves up for success," said Redman.

Pay raises for county elected leaders and county employees was a difficult decision to make for the county council members over the last two budget cycles especially in the 2023 budget cycle.

This is when county council members were deciding between 3 percent and 5 percent pay raises. County elected leaders received significant pay raises over county employees.

Therefore, with the fresh data and without having the county auditor solely having to produce those figures on their own the financial plan and the data that is used for it can be updated more frequently according to Amspaugh.

" I think it is important to emphasize that we are saying there have been bad decisions or ill informed decisions, we just want to do better," said Paula Stewart.

The Capital Improvement Plan can help the Commissioners and Council members decide on how to go about future projects for the county.

The projects can include a new or renovated Lawrence County Jail, purchase of police cars, bridge projects, purchase of dump trucks, backhoes, or other construction equipment and other facility needs the county owns.

Each department head can give county officials a updated list of needs they will be facing over a five - year period of time.

Heidi Amspaugh, of Baker- Tilly assists with enhancing communities with enhancing local communities by developing incentive packages, utilizing TIF, tax abatements, and other incentives.

" This would give you a clean projection for the next five years of revenues and expenditures," said Amspaugh. " You would get ahead of the decisions you must make as commissioners and council members. You will know what the big picture would be,"

The cost of the plan(s) would not exceed $50,000. Without the Capital Improvement Plan the cost would be around $30,000.

The county officials wanted Baker-Tilly to submit a proposal and they will vote on it at a later date.

Auditor Paula Stewart is hoping this could be used for the 2025 budget hearings that begin in August and September of each year.

For breaking news and information go to or like/follow the Lawrence County Zephyr Facebook page.


Free-Holiness Church 11122 Indiana State Road 54 Cincinnati, Indiana

Free-Holiness Church 11122 Indiana State Road 54 Cincinnati, Indiana

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