Martha A. Womacks
Marion County Auditor
August 4, 2003
Mayor Peterson, Mr. President, Members of the City-County Council, and Citizens of Marion County:
It seems as though every year gets more and more difficult to find a way to fund county government. Because of our public safety needs, all agencies in county government must contribute. Before I explain more about the budget and how it will be funded, I would like to point out some positives that are occurring in Marion County.
The Arrestee Processing Center is scheduled to begin operations later this month. This center was established on the principle that everyone taken into custody by the law enforcement community and processed for the Superior Court System and the Marion County Jail will be managed in an efficient manner within a secure and healthy environment. It is expected that timely, informed decisions will be made with regard to the conditions by which arrestees may be released. The opening of the center is the culmination of the efforts of many county, city and Building Authority officials. It will be staffed by employees of the Indianapolis Police Department, Marion County Sheriff's Department, Superior Court including judicial probation, Prosecutor, Public Defender, Clerk and the Justice Agency. I am hopeful that this center will have a positive effect on our jail population by processing those who have been arrested in a more expedient way and meet the requirements ordered by Judge Sarah Evans Barker.
I know the term "Reassessment" is now considered an expletive by many in Marion County. However, I would like to publicly commend the programmers with ACS and the staff of ISA who saw to it that extensive changes were made to our antiquated property system in order to meet the statutory changes necessary for the implementation of HB1001 as well as other changes. Meetings of pertinent staff kept everyone focused in order to meet the established deadlines and make us one of the first counties in Indiana to complete the Reassessment. I would like to compliment the township assessors and the staff of the county treasurer and especially my own staff who have worked diligently to see that we could send out bills and collect dollars for units of government.
New voting machines were put into use in the May Primary replacing the lever machines, which had been used for over fifty years. Storage, delivery to the voting site, and quicker results are among the advantages. In May, the first election results were obtained in thirteen minutes. It is our hope that promised federal funding will save our taxpayers millions.
After many years of being located in a variety of places, the Prosecutor's Office has consolidated all of its offices in one location – 251 W. Ohio Street. The Grand Jury is also located there after experiencing horrible conditions in their former site. The areas in the city-county building that were vacated will be back-filled by offices that had been renting out of the building thereby keeping all costs flat.
Technological successes have been achieved in both GIS and the Internet. GIS, which stands for Geographic Information System, has been diligently working with many agencies such as Voter's Registration. They have worked with both probation and the prosecutor's office identifying where their respective "clients", if you will, are located. The new aerial photography, which allows building heights to be identified is extremely helpful to the township assessors. Also, address information is becoming more finite.
Many web sites within Marion County have been redesigned or newly created when new elected officials came in on January 1. The Internet staff created an online budget questionnaire for ISA's use for the budgeting process.
The JUSTIS System will be replaced in 2004 by a state of the art system, which is being given to Marion County by the state of Indiana. We are pleased to have been selected as the pilot county for our current computer system, JUSTIS, which badly needs to be replaced. This new system should create efficiencies in our courts not currently available.
Public safety continues to be a priority with Marion County tax dollars and 2004 is no exception. Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an order in mid-July, which requires Marion County to fund a variety of public safety measures, which will help curb the jail population. The judge's order requires each prisoner in the jail to be provided a bed or bunk above the floor and that all prisoners be treated in a safe and humane manner. Prior to the judge's order, the Sheriff directed that a jail staffing study be initiated to determine appropriate staffing levels throughout the jail. I believe the proposed staffing plan, which includes changes in staffing, changes in facilities, and an increase in equipment and utilization of technology will be reviewed with the Council in detail. I would like to commend the team for its exhaustive efforts in developing the plan. Many difficult financial decisions lie before us, but we must ensure the public's safety and that of our employees. The jail bed capacity at CCA or Jail II has been expanded to its fullest. Community Corrections has expanded both its home detention program and work release. Also, the food contract is being evaluated and funding is being supplemented. These programs, along with the arrestee processing center, which have begun in 2003 will continue into 2004.
In finding a way to finance next year's budget, administrative areas have been affected. We have been careful not to impair public safety, which includes the Sheriff, Courts, Prosecutor, Public Defender, Probation and the Clerk. Public safety costs have risen $30.5M since the year 2000. Appropriations from the general fund have been moved to other funds in order to protect the general fund. County agencies have been cooperative in finding ways to do with less this year that will carry over to 2004. We have pared the budget down to bare bones to, hopefully, help Marion County homeowners in 2004. The 2004 county budget will return over $7 million to property tax payers.
As you probably noticed in the paper this morning, the costs of incarcerating our juveniles have not been included in the 2004 budget. I am hopeful the Criminal Justice Planning Council will help address this issue. A bit of good news is that as a result of the audit we contracted to have done, the bills are being calculated differently and we were given a two-year credit of almost one million dollars that is being applied to our debt. Also, the bill for the first six months of 2003 was less than expected, primarily due to the calculation change.
This budget includes the 27th pay, which occurs rarely. However, it is my hope that we can do this for the dedicated workers for the county so they will not see less in their paychecks in January. The budget for employee benefits has been distributed to each agency within the county to comply with the Government Accounting Standards Board's (GASB's) reporting requirements.
Sir Winston Churchill said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." The 2004 Budget has many difficulties; my hope is that we can all be optimists as we work through it together.
Thank you very much.