By Aleasha Sandley, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

ANDERSON - The Madison County Council voted on Thursday to lay off 25 county employees, among other measures approved in an effort to cut $3.8 million from the county's 2010 budget.

The council will decide from which departments the cuts need to be made before the final budget is approved Monday. Councilman Gary Gustin, who moved that the county institute layoffs, estimated that if 25 full-time, general-fund employees were laid off at an average salary of $27,000 a year with an additional cost of $13,000 a year in benefits, it would result in a $1 million saving for the county.

Five council members voted in favor of the layoffs, while two - Councilmen John Bostic and Buddy Patterson - voted against them.

Also at the meeting, the council voted 4-3 to receive $2,000 from each Madison County judge in lieu of retracting the $5,000 stipends they are given by the county.

Councilmen Mike Phipps, Larry Crenshaw and Gustin voted against the measure after Gustin's motion to retract the full stipend failed. Crenshaw said the $5,000 would have been equal to about 4 percent of the judge's $125,000 state salary, the percentage other county elected officials will cut from their salaries in 2010.

Judge Dennis Carroll, speaking on behalf of the county judges, said the judges were prepared to pay the $2,000 to be fair with other elected officials. He said the Indiana Constitution was set up so judges were paid by the state and not vulnerable to county officials who were unhappy with their decisions.

"We're prepared to write a personal check," Carroll said. "In both good financial times and bad financial times, no body (of government) should ignore the Constitution."

Judge Thomas Clem, who opposed the retraction of the stipends at first, said he just wanted to be made a part of the conversation.

"Whatever happens to the other employees, I will stand in line and take it too," he said. "What you do with respect to everybody, we'll do the same thing."

County employees also will have to pay 3 percent into their own Public Employees' Retirement Fund account that the county has been paying, which is expected to save the county an estimated $343,338, according to Auditor Kathy Stoops-Wright.

The measure was the only one of three presented by Bostic, who headed up the committee appointed by the council to come up with budget cuts, to pass the council.

Other failed cuts suggested by Bostic included reducing county employees' salaries by 1 percent and taking away their longevity pay. Added to the $1.5 million in cuts the council already has made and the PERF savings, the cuts would have saved the county about $2.4 million of the $3.8 million goal.

Bostic's suggested cuts were designed to keep employees from being laid off, he said.

"We would keep every employee employed at the Madison County courthouse," he said. "To do that, we'd have to make some sacrifices to the county employees.

"In tough times, county employees have to work together to keep people working."

County employees spoke out against the cuts from the audience, cheering and clapping when council President Bill Savage asked if their opposition to the cuts meant they were in favor of layoffs.

Bret Busby, who represented the Madison County Sheriff's Merit Officers, said 85 percent of those officers were opposed to a wage reduction, even in the face of layoffs.

Bostic said choosing layoffs wouldn't benefit all employees.

"It won't be long, it will be you," he said to the audience of employees. "It will be sooner than what you think."

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