By Brandi Watters, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

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ANDERSON, Ind. - After more than one dozen meetings, the Madison County Council approved a final budget Monday, but it got the support of only four members.

Instead of using a projected budget model of $39 million, council members started with the $35 million 2009 budget and made a series of cuts to pare down expenses.

The council was facing a $3.8 million deficit due to reduced revenue forecasts in the wake of property tax caps.

By Monday, the council had cut $2,360,839 by slashing 21 jobs and forcing county employees to pay a portion of their own retirement funds.

Five of the jobs were saved using the county assessor's reassessment fund, and the most controversial portion of the meeting occurred when Madison County Prosecutor Tom Broderick asked that the council rescind its decision to cut one job from his office.

In a 4-3 vote split down party lines, Broderick's wish was granted by Democratic members John Bostic, Larry Higgins, Buddy Patterson and Bill Savage.

Republican council members Larry Crenshaw, Mike Phipps and Gary Gustin voted against rescinding the layoff and all three also voted against the budget, believing more could be cut to better prepare the county for future dips in revenue.

Broderick said he could not afford to lose the position, that of a deputy prosecutor, because his department only has nine deputy prosecutors compared to 22 public defenders.

"We just simply don't have anybody else to cut. I ask again for your consideration," Broderick said.

Madison County Sheriff Ron Richardson addressed the council immediately after, asking that the council provide any layoff relief to his department, which lost four positions.

The sheriff said he is being forced to cut one patrol officer, one police jail officer, one civilian jail officer and one clerical position.

"We've taken a bigger hit out of any other department," he said. "We're the first line of service for public safety."

The sheriff was not granted permission to keep any of the four employees slated for layoff.

Soon after Broderick's request to keep his position was heard and granted, Superior Court Judge David Happe approached the council and asked that other departments be given the same chance to present an argument to spare jobs, since they also faced job cuts.

Crenshaw agreed that either all county job cuts should remain intact or each department should get a chance to plead for their at-risk jobs. "How can you deny a judge or any other department head the same opportunity?"

"I'm asking that our position be restored as well," Happe said.

"No," Savage said.

"He just said no. That is excluding the entire council," Crenshaw said after the meeting.

"There are no more positions that are going to be restored," Savage said after denying Happe's request.

Soon after, the budget was passed and the deficit for the 2009 budget was discussed.

The county is facing an $800,000 deficit this year, according to County Auditor Kathy Stoops-Wright.

The county's finances are so depleted, she said, that vendors to the county aren't being paid what they are owed.

Crenshaw agreed.

"We give them just the bare minimum to keep food in the jail."

Phipps said it costs the county $1.2 million per month to pay county employees.

Without any resolution to the county deficit and impending payroll expenses for the rest of the year, Stoops-Wright said the county will likely have to ask for an advance on its upcoming tax draw.

Republican members of the council used the deficit as an example of the flaws in the budget.

Gustin, Phipps and Crenshaw wanted to cut more from the 2010 budget to prevent running into vendor and payroll complications next year.

"I thought it would be better to get through this year and have a clearer picture of next year," Savage said.

Bostic said it would be unwise for the council to cut 40 to 50 county jobs at one time, hoping to spare jobs for one more year.

When the budget finally passed, the cost of an employee's salary in the prosecutor's office was added and the council ended up with $2,324,262 in budget cuts.

It is anticipated that the council will see another $2.3 million in 2010 thanks to a recent increase to the county option income tax.

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