How Are County Employees Compensated?

Monroe County Courthouse Under Renovation
Monroe County Courthouse Under Renovation

At this past Tuesday’s Monroe County Council Work Session, we discussed the structure of the county compensation system, in the context of trying to figure out a way to give county employees an increase for the 2015 budget — particularly those at the bottom of the current scale. Many members of the public have expressed interest in this issue, so I thought I would provide some background materials here.

In order to provide the council (and the public) with some background information on the structure of the county’s compensation system, in order to frame the future discussions, I prepared a little presentation on the structure and compensation levels of Monroe County’s compensation policy, which is available here:

In addition, the full report from 2006 from the County’s classification consultant, Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates, is available here:

The quick takeaways I’d like to leave readers with are the following:

  • The County has, in general, implemented the professional classification system recommended by the consultants
  • County employees have successfully been moved to the external midpoint recommended by the consultants — but not beyond that midpoint. Therefore, county employees are all (with a small number of exceptions) paid in the bottom half of the external range recommended by the consultants
  • Monroe County does not implement any performance-based compensation; therefore, supervisors do not have any tools now to reward high-performing employees

The big outstanding question for me, which requires some data gathering and analysis is: to what degree are the market ranges that were established by the consultant in 2006 still applicable in 2014? While we have over the years provided various cost-of-living adjustments to all of the pay scales, there have been several years in which, due to budget constraints and declining property tax revenue, no COLAs have been provided (the Monroe County Compensation Presentation to Council 2014-05-27) above includes a history of the last 15 years of COLAs) – and several of the recent COLAs have lagged the actual increase in cost of living. So while we may currently meet the midpoint of ranges created in 2006 that was supposed to reflect the actual labor marketplace, to what degree are these ranges now substantially obsolete — and most likely substantially lower the actual labor marketplace.

911 Dispatch Funding in Monroe County

Although it hasn’t been reported on very widely, Monroe County Government and the City of Bloomington are currently collaborating in building a new Unified Dispatch Center for all of Monroe County’s public safety agencies on the second floor of the new Bloomingon Transit Hub. This new dispatch center will replace the antiquated joint dispatch center in the Bloomington Police Station. Besides the new building, a key upgrade will be a new Computer-Aided Dispatch/Records Management System that will greatly increase our ability to respond more quickly and accurately to 911 calls.

Last month, the County Council appropriated $1.8M out of the general fund for its share of the furnishing of the new dispatch center (the City and the County have yet to come up with a final agreement on what constitutes equitable distribution of the costs).  Debates will continue at the County in future months about how much our contribution should be, for what purposes, and how to fund the remaining costs of construction and furnishing.

Ongoing operations of the dispatch center (i.e. dispatch personnel, software maintenance, etc.) will also be funded from several sources, both City and County. The County also has access to a revenue stream that is dedicated to the funding of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), of which the dispatch center is one. This revenue comes from the E911 fees paid by landline, wireless, and prepaid wireless telephone users, and currently generates around $689K annually. However, this doesn’t cover anywhere near the costs of actually operating the dispatch center, which currently employes 25+ dispatchers. Another important policy question to be resolved is whether the other public safety agencies that are dispatched (e.g. fire departments, hospital) should pay anything towards the operation, since the Unified Dispatch Center would be providing services to them.

At last week’s County Council Work Session, I gave a short presentation on (a) the history and current state of the 911 revenue stream and (b) the interlocal agreements between the city and county, in order to give councilors some context for future decision-making on dispatch center operations. Several people have asked me for a copy of my presentation, so I thought I would include it hear.  At some point when I have time I will add some additional explanatory text.

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Riverboat Wagering Tax to Monroe County May be Cut

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel

Although I try to avoid too much comment on “live” legislation that may change by the hour, the legislation currently under consideration with respect to casinos in Indiana provides an opportunity to discuss another form of revenue that local governments depend on.

Yesterday, the news agency TheStatehouseFile.com reported that:

“The Senate voted Thursday to strip about $6 million in gambling money away from local governments as part of legislation meant to boost the casino industry.”

The full (and very well-written) article is available here.

Senate Bill 528 makes a number of changes to the statutes affecting gaming in Indiana, including a number of tax cuts designed to make Indiana gambling more competitive, now that a number of neighboring states are allowing casino gambling. Under this legislation, according to the article, the home communities of Indiana’s 13 casinos would lose $27M in revenue. Many of these communities rely on this revenue for funding of their roads programs; this loss will be difficult to make up, even if the various attempts to increase road funding overall this year are successful.

However, under revenue sharing legislation established in 2003, Indiana counties that are NOT hosts to casino gambling (like Monroe County) also receive revenue from the Riverboat Wagering Tax assessed on admissions to casinos. The amount of revenue shared with counties is fixed at $33M annually, and is distributed based on population. The following table shows Monroe County’s receipts from the Riverboat Wagering Tax:

Year Amount
2009  $287,870
2010  $287,870
2011  $287,870
2012  $302,078
2013  $302,078

The amendments to SB 528 that passed on Thursday would reduce the $33M revenue sharing amount by about $6M to $27M. Assuming no other changes to the distribution methods, this legislation would result in about a $55K annual cut in riverboat wagering revenue to Monroe County that would otherwise go into the General Fund.Presumably the increase in 2012 reflected the change in population in Monroe County from the 2010 Census.

Obviously all counties in Indiana will be watching this legislation, which could see a full Senate vote next week, very closely.

For some good background on casino gambling in Indiana, see the following (slightly old, but still very useful) references:

Cable Franchise Fees in Monroe County Government

IN53-MoCoGov has enjoyed a long winter slumber — but it is time to get moving again. A lot is happening in local government, and of course our friends in the General Assembly are at it again.

House Bill 1432 — Eliminating Cable Franchise Fees

House Bill 1432, which is currently in committee in the Indiana General Assembly, would eliminate the franchise fees that cable companies (actually “video service providers”) that are regulated by the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission pay to local units of government, in return for use of the public right-of-ways for their wiring systems. As you might imagine, this bill is being very heavily lobbied by the cable industry — and there are some legitimate arguments that the franchise fees are market-distorting (there are many providers of video services, including satellite, that don’t have to pay any fees to local government).

In 2012, cable franchise fees from the three cable providers serving Monroe County (Comcast, AT&T, and Smithville), brought in $527,064 to Monroe County Government — revenue that would be nearly impossible to make up and would result in noticeable cuts in service from County Government.

Community Access Television Service

The biggest expenditure from cable franchise fees in Monroe County Government is on CATS — our Community Access Television Service. CATS, organized as a department of the Monroe County Public Library, receives funding from the City of Bloomington, Monroe County Government, and the Town of Ellettsville. CATS provides televised access to local government and other community meetings. They are there gavel-to-gavel for every County Council meeting, every County Commissioners meeting, every City Council meeting, school board meetings, etc. I believe that having these meetings televised and available to the public is absolutely central to a transparent local government — and without cable franchise fees funding, CATS would not be able to provide such extensive and accessible coverage of local government meetings.

In 2012, CATS TV provided:

  • Coverage of 407 Government meetings for the City of Bloomington, Monroe County, and Town of Ellettsville, plus MCCSC and RBBCSC and the Library board
  • 400 Community events
  • 1,558 Patron-produced programs
  • 109 Public service announcements, including Candidates on Demand
In the library’s August 2012 community survey (n=746 Monroe County residents) they learned that, at least a few times a year:
  • 69% watch City government meetings.
  • 58% watch County government meetings.
  • 60% watch educational and cultural programs.
  • 31% watch SCOLA international news.

(These stats are courtesy of library director Sara Laughlin).

We cannot afford to lose funding for CATS. Transparency in government must be considered an “essential service”, and without cable franchise fees revenues, our local governments here in Monroe County will have to find some other source to support public access television.

Cable Franchise Fees Revenue

The following table shows the revenues that come each year to Monroe County Government each year from cable franchise fees, as well as the expenditures from that revenue on CATS (labeled CATS Expenditures) and on other government services (labeled Non-CATS Expenditures).

Year Revenues CATS Expenditures Non-CATS Expenditures Total Expenditures
2001  $241,669  $84,914  $192,349  $277,264
2002  $224,070  $100,000  $186,254  $286,254
2003  $286,757  $100,000  $131,483  $231,483
2004  $384,248  $100,000  $196,445  $296,445
2005  $357,986  $90,000  $201,017  $291,017
2006  $370,941  $100,000  $178,931  $278,931
2007  $392,091  $110,000  $151,793  $261,793
2008  $434,796  $151,574  $140,466  $292,040
2009  $430,168  $200,000  $145,966  $345,966
2010  $450,848  $216,000  $179,465  $395,465
2011  $539,286  $221,000  $335,361  $556,361
2012  $527,064  $221,000  $497,130  $718,130
2013  $527,064  $227,330  $408,900  $636,230

The following graph shows how the revenue has changed over the past 10 years.

Cable Franchise Fees 2001-2012

For most of the last decade, it has increased steadily. The last two years saw a leveling-off and even a slight decline. This decline will likely continue, as clearly there are far more technological choices available to consumers today for video delivery, including satellite and other wireless options, so cable franchise fees may not be a sustainable revenue source in the long run. But local governments will need the ability to develop alternate revenue sources to maintain the services currently supported by these revenues.

Cable Franchise Fees Expenditures

So, other than community access television, what does Monroe County Government spend this revenue on? Although the revenue is not legally restricted, and can be spent on any lawful expense of county government, if appropriated by the County Council, the general principle has been that this revenue has been raised through fees on communications lines, and should be spent on communications-related expenses.

In 2011, the following expenditures were made from cable franchise fees revenues:

  • $221,000 for support of CATS
  • $141,784 for telephone and data services for Monroe County Government
  • $59,228 for radio service for the Sheriff’s Department
  • $120,025 for software licenses for Monroe County Government
  • $3970 for lease of equipment in the Monroe County Extension Office
  • $5000 for the WFIU weather alert system
  • $5351 for maintenance on the Human Resources management software for county government

In 2012, we spent:

  • $221,000 for support of CATS
  • $134,906 for telephone and data services for Monroe County Government
  • $29,333 for radio service for the Sheriff’s Department
  • $98,721 for software licenses for Monroe County Government
  • $3270 for lease of equipment in the Monroe County Extension Office
  • $12,000 for licenses for a grants management system to manage over $19M in grants to Monroe County
  • $5000 for the WFIU weather alert system and $2000 for the WFHB weather alert system
  • $2970 for maintenance on the Human Resources management software for county government
  • $4698 for GPS field tracking equipment
  • $116,230 in technology upgrades to the Nat U. Hill room

The last expense deserves a bit more note. Until the recent courthouse renovation, technology to support meetings in the Nat U. Hill Room (the room in which all county council, commissioners, plan commission, board of zoning appeals, etc. meetings are held) was almost non-existent. Although laptops and projectors were available, presentations were almost unreadable as broadcast on TV, making it difficult for the public watching the meetings to see the same materials that meeting participants were seeing. Further, there was no permanent CATS TV installation in the room, so every single meeting required almost two hours of setup by CATS staff, and a half hour or so of teardown.

When the courthouse was renovated, the County Council appropriated funding out of the Cable Franchise Fees Fund to upgrade the meeting room to add two monitors, which allow meeting participants and the public to more easily view presentations, and to add a permanent CATS installation. Further, the monitor video feeds also now go directly into the CATS TV feed, so presentations are much more readable to the public. This means more CATS can cover more meetings, since it doesn’t require such an enormous investment in staff time to setup and tear down from meetings, and it means better meeting broadcast quality to the public.

Cable franchise fees expenditures in 2013 look to be very similar to 2012 (other than the one-time expenditures on upgrades to the meeting room). Council appropriations for 2013 are:

  • $227,000 for support of CATS
  • $150,800 for telephone and data services for Monroe County Government
  • $40,000 for radio service for the Sheriff’s Department
  • $190,000 for software licenses for Monroe County Government
  • $3600 for lease of equipment in the Monroe County Extension Office
  • $12,500 for licenses for a grants management system
  • $5000 for the WFIU weather alert system and $2000 for the WFHB weather alert system
  • $5000 for maintenance on the Human Resources management software for county government

What’s Next?

All of the expenses paid for by cable franchise fees are essential. Some are highly visible, like CATS TV and the weather alert systems for local public radio stations. Others are not as flashy — maintenance fees on software applications and data services used to maintain county government, an organization with over 500 employees and a budget of over $60M. All would require some other funding source if cable franchise fees were eliminated. All will ultimately require some other funding source in the long run as franchise fees revenues decline naturally. However, local communities — and counties in particular — are hamstrung by the state in terms of their abilities to raise revenues. Although we do have limited home rule, we do not have meaningful home rule– and we certainly don’t have it where it counts, in terms of taxation. That is really the big issue here.

On the particulars of cable franchise fees, we at least may have received a bit of a reprieve. Yesterday at the League of Women Voters Legislative Update, Representative Eric Koch (R-Bedford), chair of the Utilities and Energy committee, said that the bill would not receive a hearing this year, in order to give legislators more time during summer study committees to study the data on how local governments are using the franchise fees revenues (data which is not due until later this year).

Despite this temporary reprieve, it is likely in the foreseeable future that cable franchise fees will be changed — maybe by reducing them and adding fees to satellite operators, but probably more likely in reducing or eliminating them entirely. The broader story is that local communities — local governments — need to have a greater say in raising revenue for government services.  If franchise fees are eliminated, we will need some alternate revenue source, particularly to support public access television. Budgeting is always about setting priorities — and as public access television is one of the few things that county government supports that it isn’t statutorily required to support — without a revenue stream, we would not be able to fund it — at least not anywhere near the level that we currently do. And that would be a shame for our democracy.

2013 COIT Distributions Available

Each fall, usually just before or during budget hearings, the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) announces the distribution of income tax revenues for the following year to each unit of local government in the County. This week, the COIT distributions for 2013 were released (the report for all units of government in the state is available here). These are income tax receipts that were collected between July 2011 and June 2012 by the state, and will then be distributed to each unit of government in Monroe County over 12 approximately equal monthly payments in 2013.

The page that shows these distributions is available here: Monroe County 2013 COIT Distribution.

Income taxes are collected at-large from individuals (not corporations — there is no local corporate tax in Indiana), and are then distributed to local units of government (the county, the three incorporated cities and towns, townships, the public library, Bloomington Transit, and the Perry Clear Creek Fire Protection District. The distribution to each local unit is based on a formula that roughly corresponds to the relative property tax footprint of the unit of government. What is interesting about this method of allocation is that it doesn’t matter where within the county a taxpayer lives — his or her income tax goes into a big pool and is distributed via the aforementioned formula. So a taxpayer in Polk Township could theoretically see his income taxes support the City of Bloomington, and a resident of Ellettsville could see her income taxes support the Perry Clear Creek Fire Protection District, etc.

For now, here are the COIT distributions for Monroe County for 2013.  Tomorrow I’ll provide some additional comparisons to past years,  and some interpretation of what the numbers mean.

Unit Name 2013 2013 %
Monroe County  $9,663,002 40.1%
Bean Blossom Township  $37,378 0.2%
Benton Township  $51,404 0.2%
Bloomington Township  $403,439 1.7%
Clear Creek Township  $61,958 0.3%
Indian Creek Township  $23,879 0.1%
Perry Township  $187,840 0.8%
Polk Township  $15,561 0.1%
Richland Township  $219,758 0.9%
Salt Creek Township  $19,556 0.1%
Van Buren Township  $418,035 1.7%
Washington Township  $23,625 0.1%
Bloomington Civil City  $9,440,104 39.1%
Ellettsville Civil Town  $567,758 2.4%
Stinesvill Civil Town  $2,718 0.0%
Monroe County Public Library  $2,075,631 8.6%
Bloomington Transportation  $389,105 1.6%
Perry-Clear Creek Fire Protection  $515,177 2.1%
Total  $24,115,928

This means that Monroe County Government, for example, will receive $9,663,002 in income tax over 2013, in 12 approximately equal monthly payments. This is greater than we had been projecting based on past experiences. I will explain why the change in a future blog posting. But in any case, it is very good news for those of us who have to pass a budget for Monroe County Government for 2013!

Criminal Case Filings in Monroe County, 1993-2011

The Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office had a 2012 budget of around $2.17M, not counting the child support collection-related activities or grant-funded programs like adult protective services. This $2.17M was paid for both out of the General Fund ($1.43M) and the Pretrial and Infraction Diversion Fund (fees paid by participants in the Pretrial Diversion Program and Infraction Diversion Programs, $732K).

A substantial portion of the $732K from pretrial and infraction diversion fees goes towards basic operations of the Prosecutor’s Office. This is a practice that goes back to the 2008 budget, and has a long and complicated history that I won’t go into detail on right now. However, the upshot is that the Pretrial and Infraction Diversion Fund is not only currently unsustainable given current revenues and expenditures, but is projected to run out of money this year. Beyond the fiscal unsustainability of the current funding arrangement, some philosophical/policy objections have also been raised (i.e., that funding basic operations of the prosecutor’s office from user fees and fines creates an incentive for the prosecutor to “shake down” students for pretrial diversion revenues).

In any case, for the 2013 budget, the Prosecutor’s Office is requesting that the Council move 5 legal secretary positions (as well as some additional expenses, for a total of almost $270K) from the Pretrial and Infraction Diversion Fund to the General Fund, in order to make the pretrial diversion fund sustainable. This essentially would result in a General Fund budget increase of $270K, and is part of the almost $1.4M of departmental budget requests that exceed projected revenue. The Council is obviously going to make some tough choices here.

All of this is a long preamble for the chart I wanted to provide here. In considering whether or not to accept some (or all?) of the positions that the Prosecutor’s Office is requested be moved back into County General, we have to consider the appropriateness of the overall staffing level of the office with respect to the needs of the community. One component of that analysis is the criminal case filings, which of course is a measure both of the crime that occurs in the community (which the Prosecutor generally has very little control over, although our current Prosecutor has been a model of proactive crime prevention) and of the specific policies of the Prosecutor. One of the policy questions faced by fiscal bodies like the County Council is: to what degree is the county required to pay for policy decisions by individual elected officials?

I put together the following chart, courtesy of data from the Monroe County Circuit Courts, on criminal case filings in Monroe County from 1993-2011 (1993 is the earliest I could get good data from). The cases are separated into misdemeanors and felonies, and I have labeled those cases that occurred under prosecutor Carl Salzmann and those that occurred under (current) prosecutor Chris Gaal.

Monroe County Criminal Case Filing Statistics 1993-2011

 

Overall it does not appear that there has been a substantial increase in overall criminal case filings over the past 10 years (beyond a small among that is probably accounted for by overall population growth — more people generally is going to mean more crime). It is interesting to note that criminal case filings had dipped quite low in the last two years of the Salzmann administration. Was this simply a result of less crime in the community, or was there a policy decision to pursue criminal filings less aggressively? As you can also see, when prosecutor Chris Gaal took over in 2007, there was a large spike in filings, leading to 2007 being the high-water mark for criminal case filings. However, the filing rate appears to have stabilized in the ensuing years, and is probably a better indication of the “normal” rate of criminal filings, rather than the “prosecution-lite” last two years of the previous prosecutor’s administration.