Carroll County Board rejects proposed VAC budget increases

Animosity between factions of the Carroll County Board and the county’s Veterans Assistance Commission resurfaced Thursday during budget discussions.

The tensions began about 13 years ago and spiked almost 4 years ago when members of the VAC Board sued the county for increased funding to cover staff wages and expenses. That suit continues in litigation.

“There was a tax levy that was approved by this board in 2004, but never implemented,” VAC Superintendent Bill Hanna told the County Board during its meeting Thursday. “So, we are asking that you implement that .03 percent tax levy that was approved in ’04, and we believe that will give us more than adequate funds to take care of our veterans and fund our office.”

He also proposed an alternative which carried an increase in dues, increases in funding for mileage and trainings, increases to update equipment, an annual increase in salaries, and a new budget line item that would in effect officially establish an administrative assistant position in the VAC office.

County Board Chair Kevin Reibel agreed the state had mandated an increase of .03 percent, and the board had recognized that mandate by voting to allow an increaase up to .03 percent. But it never implemented an increase, he said.

“That has been the whole lead-in to all the discussions we’ve had over the years,” VAC Board Chair Ellis Boughton said. “If that increase was implemented above .02 percent, because .02 percent would probably be sufficient to run the office, but .03 percent is what is suggested through the state mandate. If that was implemented, then these situations that we’ve faced over the last 13 years wouldn’t exist.”

He said the VAC would run its own budget, do its own payroll, its taxes, and all the things currently done through the County Board.

“We don’t seek to go and spend all that money in a random fashion, but we don’t know the future just as this board doesn’t know what may happen in the future,” Hanna said. “There would probably be a period of time where we would bank that, and as we go from one year to the next we would adjust that levy according to what we needed.”

Following considerable discussion covering the VAC’s perceived possibility of a need for increased services, the board voted against the requested increases and against adding a VAC administrative assistant as a line item to the budget.

In other budget related matters, both the state’s attorney’s office and the county assessor’s pffice requested a 3 percent wage increase and a 9 percent increase to cover insurance costs. The coroner’s office requested a 3 percent wage increase and a 13 percent increase for travel. And, Extension, the Historical Society, and the Blackhawk Hills Regional Office all declined to request increases.

A proposed draft budget is viewable on the county website.

In other business, State’s Attorney Scott Brinkmeier informed the board of a delay in the VOCA grant, which will impact his office’s ability to pay its victim’s assistant.

“We learned late in July that there is going to be a funding lapse,” Brinkmeier said. “The current VOCA grant will expire Sept. 30, 2017, and the next time I can receive VOCA funds won’t be until Jan. 1, 2018. I will have a 3-month shortfall where I won’t have money for my victim’s assistant. “

He asked the board for a budget amendment to the Victim’s Impact Fund that would increase appropriations from that fund to $1,500, which when combined with other funds already appropriated will cover the cost of his victim’s assistant through November.

“She will not be working in December, and I will not start her back up until I know I have the VOCA grant approved for FY 2018,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to approve the amendment.

The Carroll County Board will have its next scheduled meeting at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 21 in the Small Courtroom in the County Courthouse.

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