Roanoke's budget request draws fire

A public hearing concerning the Town of Roanoke's proposed budget for next year became a source of controversy at the town council's meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

The advertised budget for the town includes an 11 percent increase in the town's levy for 2010. This levy is a distribution of property and other taxes and fees collected by the county, which is then redistributed to the town, per approval by the state government.

Roanoke Clerk/Treasurer JoAnne Kirchner said that the increase is normal for towns.

"We know we won't get all of what we ask for," Kirchner says. "It's more like a wish list. But if you advertise the budget too low, you run the risk of reducing some maximum levy funds you cannot get back."

However, Roanoke resident and library board President Brian Secor said that the town asking for more than a 3.8 percent increase in the levy amount is against Indiana law. Secor said that the town can be fined for advertising above that 3.8 percent level.

Kirchner said that the budget is not final and that it is simply a request to purposely exceed the maximum levy in order to secure as much money as possible for the town.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, Huntington County Auditor Kathy Juillerat said that to her knowledge, the town's advertised increase is within legal statutes. Juillerat said that she was approached by Secor about the possible law infringement, but said that she never had heard of the law before, and had attended workshops sponsored by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance where department representatives said that having a high budget is not illegal.

"I'm not an attorney, but I'm not aware of any penalty for advertising high," Juillerat said. "Normally, [towns have a high advertised budget] because of the unknown."

Juillerat said that because of a myriad of financial factors, especially at the state level, a precise budget cannot be created. She said that many municipalities go over the budget for the same reasons as Roanoke.

"I will say that Ms. Kirchner is absolutely correct in advertising high," Juillerat said.

Kirchner ased that any budget questions be directed to her at the Roanoke Town Hall at 672-8116, ext.1.