Local Elected Officials Gather to Talk Finances

The Grant County Economic Growth Council’s first Local Elected Officials (LEO) Dinner for 2017 focused on one of the most challenging topics for local governments: finances. 56 local elected officials representing 15 units of government attended the dinner on Wednesday March 29, which was hosted at Hontz Hall in Gas City. The night featured four  speakers: Jim McWhirt of the Grant County Council; Dr. Larry DeBoer Professor and Extension Specialist in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University; David Bottorff, Executive Director of the Association of Indiana Counties; and Rhonda Cook, Deputy Director, Chief Federal & State Policy Officer of Accelerate Indiana Municipalities Their presentations reviewed and discussed the challenges of financing local governments brought on by the recent changes in the Indiana Local Income Tax Law. Dr. DeBoer commended the “group for coming together to begin this discussion since it will be critical as they understand the ramifications on other local jurisdictions as the local income tax council contemplate decisions.”

Jim McWhirt of the Grant County Council said of the event, “The meeting was a great opportunity for us to review our current funding sources and to hear about local income tax options available to us as we consider future funding and budgeting decisions.”

One of the major messages of the dinner Wednesday night was that Grant County needs greater collaboration and cooperation within local government when it comes to finances. The speakers also emphasized the importance of understanding one another’s financial commitments.  Grant County faces some difficult challenges in the near future due to population decline as well as changing legislature that affects how funds are distributed. The speakers outlined how LEOs still have multiple tools to work with to keep their budgets healthy and departments funded. Ultimately, it will take thinking and acting as county, not individual cities and towns, to take full advantage of the opportunities in the coming years. David Botorff noted during his remarks that Grant County is already ahead of many communities simply due to the fact so many LEOs in Grant County willingly participate in events such as this one.

Future LEO Dinners will likely revisit the discussion from Wednesday’s event. The Growth Council hosts LEO Dinners quarterly to provide opportunity for collaboration between the municipalities and county officials. Topics vary from event to event. To find out more about the next LEO Dinner, contact the Growth Council.

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