Warrick County Auditor Debbie Stevens is under fire and her office is at risk for a budget reduction.
Stevens was reprimanded in the Warrick County Council meeting last week after County Councilman Paul Rudolph said her office was having issues completing a handbook that provides documentation for officeholders across the state.
Rudolph said the auditor's office was given more money in this year's budget to pay for the work to be done, but the task has to be completed.
"The Auditor's Office has been always responsible for performing certain task regarding the documentation of our budget and spending to the Association of Indiana Counties and others," he said. "Unfortunately, we've had some problems in the last couple of years with having that done."
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Rudolph said the Auditor's Office has had an issue with the task due to a lack of resources leading to the Council's Office taking it on for the last two years. Then, he said the council decided to appropriate more money into the Auditor's Office funds to rectify the situation.
"This year the Council was also tight on our capacity as well and we're not able to help this year," he said. "Additionally, we have allocated $5,000 of extra part-time help to the Auditor's Office to help with these types of resource issues."
Despite the attempts to rectify the situation, Rudolph said the work still hasn't been done. As a result, he made a motion to advertise a reduction for the Auditor's Office's budget for the additional amount allocated for the work.
"If we're going to have that issue again this year, my suggestion would be that we sweep the additional funds that we have given to the Auditor, we take them back and reduce the Auditor's budget and then we put that full measure of funds in the Council budget, so that we can hire a part-time person to perform this task," he said.
However, Stevens said her office has needed the extra funds to keep up with the demands of the work her office does on a regular basis. She said the money has gone to pay for extra part-time help, but the extra work for the documentation is too much of an addition to their regular responsibilities.
"The $5,000 that was appropriated to my budget for part-time help was based on a demonstration that a budget was passed by this council in 2014 for 2015 that reduced my budget by a full-time staff member, which had already been reduced by a full-time staff member," Stevens said. "And my overall budget was reduced before I came into office in 2015. Based on a personnel meeting prior to the budget for 2017, we were appropriated the extra $5,000. We were not given a full-time staff member."
Stevens also said there was no statute saying her office has to complete the work. She said anyone in the county is capable of completing the work.
"Submitting data entry for the [Association of Indiana Counties] Factbook, is not a responsibility, is not a statutory responsibility of the Auditor's Office," she said. "Anyone could do it. Mr. Rudolph, you could sit at your dining room table and do data entry. It feels like an abuse of your fiscal authority to make it political or vindictive in some way. But, I don't have the resources."
Rudolph said the move wouldn't be political in nature. He said the council would only be reacting to the actions taken by Stevens and her office.
"It's not political or vindictive in any way shape or form," he said. "We have allocated extra resources as compared to last year to take care of things serving the taxpayers and what you are being asked to do helps our County Council and 91 other other county councils do their job and save tax payers money because we're able to compare apples to apples with other ones. When we have an officer holder who chooses not to participate and not to help, it hurts all the counties in the state."
In addition, Stevens argued that the Council already has plenty of money in their budget to pay for the work to be completed. Despite the increase, she said her office still doesn't have the ability to complete the work requested.
"We are busier this year than last year," she said. "It's never going to be less...we're a growing county...as long as we're growing our staff is busier."
Rudolph said the county has always been growing, but the issue didn't exist at that time either.
"And we were growing year over year under the last auditor and the last auditor after that...and we've never had a problem getting the Factbook done," he said.
Plus, Rudolph said the Council has offered their services to assist with submitting the information for the last two years.
"I asked and I'm the one that motioned to give you more resources, so that you could assist and do other things," he said. "We well overcompensated the amount of time we're being asked to request. I believe the Auditor's Office should be willing to assist us with this endeavor. We've offered to help when we've had the capacity the last couple of years. We don't have that capacity this year."
Warrick County Council Administrator Krystal Powless said most of the money alloted to the council for part-time salaries is set to be used when the council prepares the budgets for each county office in the fall.
Rudolph said the bottom line is that the council employees don't have anymore ability to complete the tasks and don't have the training to pull the information together. He said it boils down to Stevens refusing to complete the tasks assigned.
"We all have the ability to do it in our budget," he said. "Some of us our choosing not to."
The council voted to advertise the reduction in the budget in order to move the funds into the council's budget and consider the action in their next meeting. The council's next meeting will be Thursday, May 3 at 6:30 p.m.