Council Forgoes Consultant

Ray Cooney – Editor

The Commercial Review

With the financial picture much stronger than it was just a few years ago, Jay County Council has decided to handle the 2019 budget process without assistance from a consultant.

County council members agreed Wednesday that they do not need to hire Financial Solutions Group after using the firm during each of the previous two years.

They also considered a request for the addition of a part-time employee for the retirement center.

Council president Jeanne Houchins started the discussion about Financial Solutions Group, noting that accountant Greg Guerrettaz had requested forms to allow him to begin working with the county on developing its 2019 budget. She expressed her opinion that the firm’s services will not be needed this year.

“I personally feel that we as a group have got a pretty good grip on this budget,” Houchins said. “I think what we’ve done over the past three years has worked and is getting us going in the right direction.”

Council member Mike Rockwell agreed, asking how much the county had spent on Financial Solutions Group consulting services in 2017. (Jay County spent about $25,000 in 2017 and $22,000 in 2016.)

Guerrettaz brought some helpful advice, said council member Gary Theurer, but concurred that such consulting services should be used on an as-needed basis and that they are not needed this year.

Houchins expressed hope that money saved by not hiring a consultant could be used toward raises for county employees.

None of the council members advocated for contracting with the firm, and a vote was not necessary as council had not budgeted money for Financial Solutions Group services for this year.

Council first decided to seek consulting services from the firm in November 2015 after freezing wages and taking $500,000 from the rainy day fund to balance the 2016 budget. At the time, council had spent nearly $1 million from the rainy day fund in just two years with the bulk of that money going toward regular operating expenses.

The county had closed 2014 with a general fund balance of $289,381 after being above $1 million in each of the previous two years. The balance has been on a steady upward climb to just over $1.98 million at the close of 2017.

Council members Ted Champ, Cindy Newton, Bob Vance, Faron Parr, Gary Theurer, Houchins andRockwell also discussed the proposal of adding a part-time employee for the retirement center to handle its livestock.

Jay County Commissioners had discussed the same issue at their meeting Monday, questioning whether keeping the facility’s cattle and chickens makes financial sense. Chuck Huffman, president of the commissioners, asked for more information about the cost-benefit of keeping the livestock. (Jay County is one of just 12 that operates a “county home” and the only one that still has a farm.)

Council members had similar questions Wednesday. The request was referred to the county’s personnel committee for further discussion.

In other business, council:

•Approved a $117,325 budget for Jay County Visitor and Tourism Bureau, which is funded by the innkeeper’s tax. The budget includes $40,000 a year for one full-time employee and one part-time employee and $20,500 for marketing.

•Appointed Pat Gibson and Ron Dashler to the property tax abatement board of appeals and Jim Zimmerman to the alcoholic beverage commission.

•Approved additional appropriations, including $5,100 for the WorkKeys program, $2,500 for a new server for Jay County Community Corrections and $449 in grant funds for the veterans services office.

•OK’d the following transfers: a total of $2,125 to the deputy court reporter to pay vacation time, sick days and personal days owed to an employee who is resigning; and $4,038 to liability and casualty insurance from workers compensation in the highway department budget to cover insurance costs.

•Passed an ordinance that updates county job descriptions.