County council's meeting gets heated over 2024 budget process

Nov. 15—ANDERSON — For more than an hour members of the Madison County Council discussed the process for which the 2024 budget information was provided to the state.

The discussion Tuesday, which became contentious at times, started when Councilwoman Bethany Keller asked to amend the minutes from the seven-hour Oct. 10 meeting in which numerous changes to the proposed budget were approved.

During the discussion, Auditor Rick Gardner and Councilman Mikeal Vaughn tossed personal attacks back and forth, which President Rob Steele said to stop.

"The minutes are not clear what budget was adopted," Keller said.

The council tabled the Oct. 10 minutes until the Jan. 9 meeting to allow members to submit revisions in writing.

Keller asked how the incorrect budget was submitted to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

Councilman Ben Gale said the original budget was submitted to the state prior to the Oct. 10 meeting.

Gardner said there were several hundred changes that had to be made to the 2024 budget submitted to the state agency.

He said the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance was contacted to allow the revisions to be made to the submitted budget by the deadline.

Keller said the auditor's office had five business days to submit the adopted budget.

"We submitted a budget knowing we would have to make 700 changes," Gardner said. "We had until Nov. 8 to update the submission to the state."

Keller and Vaughn insisted during the meeting that Council President Steele was not aware of the fact the wrong budget was appearing on the state's website until Oct. 31.

Gale said normally there would be few changes made to the submitted budget, but for next year there were significant changes.

Steele said the budget submitted to the state currently is the correct one.

"We had a seven-hour meeting, which is a failure of the council," Gale said of the budget process.

Councilwoman Jodi Norrick said what happened was three council members worked with Gardner on the budget.

"We need a written process for creating a budget next year," Gale said.

Steele said the council made some mistakes on the budget and how it was handled.

Norrick said to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future the entire council should work together on the preparation of a budget.

At the Oct. 10 meeting a budget of $43.5 million was presented but the council at first was not willing to explain where $2 million in cuts were made.

The council then reviewed the entire budget for 2024 and implemented several changes recommended by Norrick concerning the pay of employees.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.