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Update to upcoming budget cuts in St. Joseph County

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The St. Joseph County Commissioners plan to raise the percentage of budget cuts for departments at the beginning of 2018 will affect every county department.

Department heads will be asked to cut 5 percent of their current budget in order to keep the county out of the red. The county auditor, Michael Hamman, said the basic necessities that every county needs will be taking a hit starting next January.

“Tax cuts are great, we’re all here for tax cuts but there’s a point where you’re going to start harming folks” said Hamman. “There’s a point where you’re going to start harming the quality of life and people are going to want to live and invest in a community where health standards aren’t where they need to be.”

Hamman said that it was recommended that the county cut five percent, which is almost a million and a half dollars. He said every department was asked to follow this budget cut.

Hamman said for some it’s working, but for others, he said it’s a problem.

“They’ve said ‘Look, I have a responsibility to the tax payers to deliver these services, I have a moral responsibility to do the best I can in terms of helping some of the folks that need help in this community and I can’t cut,’” said Hamman.

Over the past four years, the county has asked departments to cut budgets in order to account for revenue loss. But Hamman is saying this isn’t the way to do it because it’s harming the county’s quality of life.

“Take the health department for instance I mean we all want to go out and make sure the restaurant we go to is safe,” said Hamman. “We want a requisite number of investigators to go out and make sure the food is safe well if you want to cut those folks you’re going to be taking risks when you go out to eat, I guess.”

The health department’s budget has seen peaks and valleys in its budget. In 2013 it saw a more than $340,000 increase to its budget from the previous year. In 2014, it increased by $370,000 from 2013.

In 2015 the budget only saw a $220,000 increase. And in 2016, it only increased by a little less than $200,000.

Hamman said instead of cutting there’s a simple solution, increase taxes.

“We were looking at reestablishing the rates for capital development which had to do with vehicles buildings and structures and it those are pretty mundane things,” Hamman said.

Hamman said it’s better than the alternative.

“You lower taxes to attract people to this community and to invest and what not but if you don’t have basic quality of life issues handled if you don’t have you’re infrastructure taken care of then why do that,” said Hamman.

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