Wayne County’s 2024 budget falls just short of $50 million.

Council unanimously approved the budget and the 2024 salary ordinance Nov. 1. That was the final day budgets could be approved, according to the state’s Department of Local Government Finance regulations.

The budget includes $36,114,079.99 in the general fund and another $13,818,155 in other funds, such as highway and bridge. Final figures for the budget will be posted on the DLGF’s Gateway website, available at https://budgetnotices.in.gov/ReportMaster.aspx?uid=1690&yr=2024&mode=ALL

Final approval had been delayed two weeks to ensure 2024 employee salaries were properly calculated. Those employees will see their pay boosted to the midpoint of a salary comparison conducted by consultant Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates of Muncie, plus an additional 2% across-the-board raise.

“I feel like it’s where we need it to be right now,” Council President Beth Leisure said prior to the 6-0 approval vote.

The $36 million general fund figure includes $3 million for one-time expenditures. That’s a consistent number council uses to pay for projects and emergencies. However, council expects only about $1.5 million of that $3 million to be available for 2024 expenditures, but American Rescue Plan Act dollars, including through the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, will fund projects as well. The county has a little more than $4.8 million in ARPA dollars not yet committed.

To cover costs of employee raises, council discussed lowering the budgeted one-time expenditures line item; however, the $3 million was left as a placeholder for future years.

“Otherwise, we’re at a point where everything’s balanced,” said council member Tony Gillam.

Council expects about $900,000 in additional money from property and income taxes will be available for 2024. Subtracting $1.5 million from the one-time expenditures, leaves the 2024 general fund budget $771,847.99 higher than 2023’s $33,842,232 budget. That would also lower the overall budget number to $48,432,234.99.

Forming the budget involves many hours after the council receives departmental budget requests. The work began in earnest July 19 when council listened for six hours to department heads’ reasons for budget increases. The requests included 27 additional employees.

Council member Cathy Williams said after the Nov. 1 vote that council had listened to the requests, but just doesn’t have enough money to grant them all.

“It’s not that we didn’t want to do everything that was asked of us, because everybody had a good reason for what they wanted and why they wanted it,” Williams said. “It’s not that we disagree with any of that, but you only have so much money and it only goes so far.” 

Some department heads have said their employees deserved larger raises because they possess specialized skills. The consultant reviews job descriptions and classifies each job, setting the salary structure for the positions.

Council member Barry Ritter suggested that council work with the human resources department and department heads to ensure job descriptions are updated and reviewed by the consultant so classifications truly match job duties. Council could then address any salary discrepancies in future budgets.

With the budget set, council expects not to receive requests for additional employees or appropriations until work begins on the 2025 budget.

“We are going to stick to our guns,” Leisure said. 

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A version of this article appeared in the November 8 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.