SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Bracing for the budget could mean fewer jobs in St. Joseph County and fewer services for taxpayers.
County officials are worried about the effects of downsizing next year’s budget thanks to what they’re calling a devastating state law that will put a cap on property taxes.
“I’ll just be very blunt with you, if we make these cuts, the public will feel it,” said Michael Hamann, St. Joseph County Auditor.
The county’s auditor office felt it in 2016.
“We did, last year, we had downsized by three positions,” said Chief Deputy Auditor Teresa Shuter.
Officials say a shrinking budget for the county is inevitable but not practical for some departments.
“In some departments you’re only talking three or four people in a department and a very minimal amount of office supply or extra budget items, so they simply can’t make any changes,” said Shuter.
In 2020, the Circuit Breaker legislation kicks in, kicking out over several million in revenue that would go to the general fund.
The county says originally it was only thought to cut about $26 million.
That loss is now $78 million.
In order to stay afloat, the county will have to cut $1.5 million from the 2018 budget or about five percent from each department.
But some services can’t handle a cut of that size.
“If it winds up coming down to that particular number, it would be a difficult cut for us to bear,” said Bill Thompson, Assistant Chief of the St. Joseph County Police.
The county sheriff’s department, for example, has a budget of about $14 million, a population nearly full at the jail, and supports a staff of about 300.
If cuts come its way, it could be a hit to public safety.
“That’s an ongoing balancing act, if we were to lose positions that would be a significant impact to the way we operate,” said Thompson.