Perry County Council president protests new oversight role

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - Perry County Council members approved in a regular meeting Thursday projected budgets for two townships, but not without protests from the council president.

Among other things, House Enrolled Act 1001 assigned county councils the responsibility to review all county units' budgets except those of school corporations. The council approved those of Oil and Tobin townships, both the same or slightly less than last year's.

"I think it's amazing they think we can review these, and we don't know a thing about them," Council President Pete Franzman said. "Some of the things they've done under 1001 are a big farce."

The council had been approving only the portions of township budgets related to property assessments, with other functions left to township officials. Under the new law, the council will now provide nonbinding reviews of library, airport, city, township and watershed budgets, County Auditor Connie Berger said Friday.

The legislation was said to be aimed at cutting property taxes, Franzman said, but he urged people to "tally up" what they'll pay under new property-tax caps and a 1-percent sales-tax hike. State residents will end up paying approximately the same amount except for farmers, who'll see increases of approximately 30 percent, he said.

"They're trying to get rid of county government," Franzman said. "They're trying to force county government out. We have to let our legislators know where we stand; that's the word I've gotten from upstate."

The council also approved a request from Steve Hauser, emergency-management director for the county, to include $10,000 in his budget for next year for a vehicle lease agreement.

He wants to replace a 2003 Ford Expedition with a 2008 model, he said.

"I found one in Evansville, and we would save money if we buy it now," he explained, asking the council to signal their intent to purchase it. The first payment won't be due until February, and the purchase would save $2,000 over next year's model, he added.

The 2003 Expedition will go to the county garage to be available for first responders, Hauser said, and a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe will be sold.

Franzman said even with the lease agreement, Hauser's budget for next year is projected to be $7,806 less than this year's.

In other business, the council approved the appropriation of $7,000 in grant funding for drug-treatment counseling.

Members also reappointed Tony Hollinden and John Oberhausen to the Perry County Redevelopment Commission.

House Enrolled Act 1001 changed appointment procedures for such commissions statewide, making county councils responsible for appointing two positions.

County commissioners were responsible for all of the selections until July 1, when the change went into effect. They reappointed Bernard Hermann, Paul Malone and Marvin Rogier at a July 21 meeting.

All five of the reappointed redevelopment-commission members will continue to serve until the end of the year.

In addition to their regular meeting Sept. 25, the county council will meet at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 3 to hear budget requests from county departments and at 8 a.m. Sept. 17 to begin their annual all-day budget-adoption meeting.