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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Lawrence County Council Reduces Tax Levy of Lawrence County Health Department amid Pandemic

LAWRENCE COUNTY - OCTOBER 20, 2022 - The Lawrence County Health Department tax levy was reduced during the 2023 Budget process. Lawrence County's Health Department was reduced by 24.82 percent. The Civil Defense Budget and revenues will be reduced by 32 percent.

The levy reductions were made to help the General Fund which saw a 27 percent increase over last year.

Lawrence County Health Department

Lawrence County Health Nurse explains disappointment to the Lawrence County Council about them failing to advise the agency of their plans to cut their levy and reduction in revenues

The Aviation Fund was increased by 165 percent, over last year. Lawrence County Council member Jeff Lytton serves as airport manager. Lytton voted for the tax levy changes during the meeting Tuesday night as wells as a five percent pay increase for al county employees including elected officials.

(Jeff Lytton served as an appointed Lawrence County Council member from the Republican Party and serves as Virgil Grissom Airport Manager)

The cuts to the health department were to increase the levy and revenues for the airport operations and runway project in 2023. The airport did not receive approval from the FAA grant application applied for the second half of the runway project

The Lawrence County Redevelopment Commission approved the $184,075 for runway improvements at the Virgil Grissom Municipal Airport earlier today.

Improvements at the Virgil Grissom Airport are now underway, Lawrence County Council approved a 165 percent budget increase to the Aviation Fund

Lawrence County Health Nurse Paula Edwards appeared before the Lawrence Council to communicate her displeasure with their actions.

Edwards was equally disappointed the Health Department was not notified of the changes.

Lawrence County Health Department never notified of proposed changes to the tax levy by the department

" By Indiana law all we have to do is post the announcement of the meeting on the wall at the county courthouse and Indiana Gateway where the announcement was placed. That was the only two places the announcement was made of the changes both to the budget and tax levy," said Lawrence County Auditor Jessica Staggs told Edwards during Tuesday night's meeting.

According to Staggs that annoucement did not have to be placed in the local newspaper.

Lawrence County Health Department will be asking for help in Utilities in 2023 and the Health Department will be expanding offices in the Dunn Plaza - This will create additional expenses for the department

The relationship between the Lawrnce County Council and Lawrence County Health Department has been troubled over the last three years. The Lawrence County Council has refused to allow the health department to hire additional staff, and sanitarian trying to be fiscal conservative with the budget.

Lawrence County Health Department attends a District 8 Homeland Security Meeting recently

A large sum of revnue has been raised through grant funding to staff the office with immunizations and other programs and services the Lawrence County Health Department provides.

The COVID- Pandemic placed a huge burden on the Lawrence County Health Department with the Lawrence County Council voting "no" to staffing requests.

The COVID- 19 Pandemic has stressed Emergency Medical Services and Lawrence County's Volunteer Fire Departments. None of the COVID-19 money was released to the county's volunteer fire departments who responded to COVID-19 emergencies and was not reimbursed by the Lawrence County Commissioners.

The COVID - 19 Pandemic continues to put a strain on local and area hospitals. This amplifies the need for local funding to address the costs of the pandemic and daily operations of the local health department.

The State of Indiana sits on a $61 Billion reserve in tax revenues however, the Lawrence County Health Department was told by Auditor Jessica says they cannot build up reserve. The County Rainy Day fund has a reserve of $2.9 Million and the County General Fund currently has a reserve of $3.3 Million according to the Lawrence County Auditor's Office.

The budget itself is one of the county's largest budgets approved by the Lawrence County Council. Lawrence County budget of $28,997, 673.

The Lawrence County Council passed a record $28.6 Million Budget

If any changes were made to the levies again tonight the budget would have to been reverted back to the 2022 Budget. Lawrence County Council members did not want that budget to revert back to that funding level.

Property taxes will increase approximately 16 percent for most Lawrence County property owners, with higher amounts for both Shawswick Township and Guthrie Township residents with the creation of the Shawswick/Guthire Township Fire Territory. The full impact on property owners is not known at this time.

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