Steve Freeland (Taxpayer Friendly)
Watchdog Lebanon Home Page
Campaign Contributions: January 1, 2016, through April 8, 2016
Candidate Freeland had no cash on hand on January 1. He received $1,450.00 in itemized contributions. There were $1,246.06 in itemized expenditures. The April 8 cash on hand was $203.94. There were three itemized contributions, the largest of which was $1,000.00 from the candidate.
Watchdog Indiana County Council Candidate Questions - 2016 Primary Election
1. What will be your public service priorities if you are elected to the
Boone County Council? ANSWER: Before I can respond to this question in an
educated manner, I need to acknowledge my lack of knowledge or depth of
knowledge on many issues beyond what I have learned over the past 4 months since
I announced my candidacy. However, I have become educated on what some of the
issues are that will need the full attention of the Council in 2017 and beyond.
My priorities on the Council at this stage of my candidacy are the following:
* Budget/Financial Review: Seek to fully understand the financial data, department budgets, reports, reserves and the rationale for determining the reserve levels, historical financial performance etc. I will focus on the reserves and draw my conclusions for what I believe the reserves should be. Having spent the past 15 yrs as a CEO/President with 2 companies and having earned an MBA, I am fairly confident that I will grasp the financial materials relatively quickly so that I can start making educated decisions and conclusions.
* Public Safety: The County has a severe deficit of manpower and resources to best serve the public safety of the County Sheriff's jurisdiction and facilities. The rising epidemic of meth/heroin in Boone County jeopardizes our county's future public health, public safety, and economy. A robust analysis needs to be done to determine the full impact of doing nothing vs the challenge and benefits of providing the additional resources as determined by the analysis.
* Road Funding: The assessment of the County roads has determined that the funding shortfall to make the appropriate improvements is well beyond the financial means of the County. The recent State funding windfall alone will not adequately meet those needs. The State funding option that requires the local communities to impose wheel taxes becomes an option that will need to be studied by the Council.
* County Employee Health Care Cost: Rising health care costs for county employees will challenge the Council to find ways to control these county employer/employee costs in creative and practical ways while remaining competitive as an employer.
2. Is the county spending enough of its available resources to maintain and improve the county roads in the unincorporated areas of the county? BACKGROUND: The 2013-15 State Budget made better use of the existing state Gasoline Tax and state Sales Tax revenues from gasoline purchases to significantly increase Boone County transportation funding. State revenues deposited into the Boone County Motor Vehicle Highway and Local Road & Street funds increased 38 percent from $2,900,956 in 2013 to $4,016,363 in 2015. However, only $2,888,947 was spent from the 2015 Boone County Motor Vehicle Highway and Local Road & Street funds – $1,127,416 was unspent and added to the cash reserves (the December 31, 2015, cash balances in the Boone County Motor Vehicle Highway and Local Road & Street funds totaled $2,933,169). ANSWER: The key word in this question is "available" resources. I will respond by saying it depends. I am not prepared to go on record saying that the decision to retain $1.127M in cash reserves was a right or wrong decision. I refer to my response in question 1 regarding needing to assess the reserves before I make a conclusion.
3. Do you support a new county-wide Wheel Tax? BACKGROUND: Indiana Senate Bill 67 passed by the Indiana General Assembly this year will increase funding for 2016 to the Boone County government units by a total of $13,044,770. A one-time additional distribution from the state’s county option income tax (COIT) trust account will provide $4,106,918 in additional county government revenue this year, at least 75% of which must be used exclusively by the Boone County Highway Department for local road construction, maintenance, and repair. In addition, Indiana House Bill 1001 passed by the Indiana General Assembly this year created a state Local Road and Bridge Matching Grant Fund, which will provide matching dollar-for-dollar grants to a county or municipality that allocates certain revenues for the purpose of increasing the capacity of local roads and bridges. ANSWER: I believe that there may be additional existing funds available, whether at the state level or local level, to go after before considering/imposing a wheel tax.
4. What is an appropriate level of county cash reserves compared to the county’s annual operating budget? BACKGROUND: The August 11, 2010, Boone County Comprehensive Financial Plan prepared by H. J. Umbaugh & Associates (a PDF version can be E-mailed on request) targets 15% as a prudent level of end-of-the-year Boone County government cash balances compared to annual operating funds disbursements. ANSWER: I respect the work that Umbaugh & Associates does based on my limited experience in looking at their work in other projects. I am not prepared to respond with a recommended % of disbursements until I have done a more thorough analysis on a dept by dept basis. In the private sector, the retaining of reserves are typically based on how many days of operating cash is adequate to fund expenses under varying conditions and situations that influence revenue or unplanned expenses. Bank lines of credit are also a means of cash flow stability in the private sector. In govt, while the local govt revs may be a bit more steady than at the state level, and bank lines of credit are not a means of reserves, I would assume in general that 30-50 days of expenses should be reserved. (I did not calculate if this equates to the standard 15% rule that Umbaugh recommends.) This 30-50 days of cash on hand rule of thumb is not applicable for all departments so there are exceptions I am not able to determine.
5. Do you support a new county-wide Public Safety Local Option Income Tax? BACKGROUND: See page 77 of the Fiscal Year 2015 Indiana Handbook of Taxes, Revenues, and Appropriations at https://iga.in.gov/static-documents/f/9/4/0/f9407ace/2015%20Tax%20Handbook%20WEBPAGE.pdf. ANSWER: This income tax exist in 43 other Indiana counties and most of the disbursements are primarily for the needs of the local communities police and fire services. It therefore has been deemed to be a reasonable means of funding public safety by those counties. I am a proponent of an adequately prepared public safety department as I view this as a basic responsibility of the county to provide to the county taxpayers. However, I am inclined to seek funding from any and all other options first that can be identified if those options exist or can be determined to be available without compromising the financial viability of the county or the state. I will focus mostly on reserve balances, as well as department budgets across the entire county, as I deem the capability of the public safety services to respond both reactively and proactively an obligation and duty of the county in serving the wellbeing of the taxpayers. However, until the analysis of the pubic safety dept is done and thoroughly studied by the Council and the public safety leadership, it is pre-mature to assume that a PSLOIT is needed. If it were necessary to levy the LOIT, I would advocate for a regressive tax over time along with a strategy to support the incremental expenses through planned budgeting if at all possible.
6. Should property tax rate increases be avoided to (a) protect lower income Boone County residents with homes assessed below the 1% property tax cap from tax increases and (2) lessen Boone County units of government budget losses to property tax caps? ANSWER: I think this depends on how accurate the assessment is on the property and how far off the assessed tax is from the1% tax cap. I would be in favor of NOT imposing the tax increase if the individual property owners are current in their tax payments, the increase is deemed excessive, and the property owner can demonstrate their financial hardship. I do however believe that all property owners have an obligation to pay taxes on their property.
7. Should better use be made of the request for proposals (RFP) process to select county government service providers? ANSWER: I am not educated on the current process to opinionate.
8. Is the Boone County Area Comprehensive Plan a good road map for future growth that also preserves agriculture as an economic development industry? BACKGROUND: See http://www.boonecounty.in.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=65. ANSWER: The plan remains an adequate plan for maintaining the vision of the county. As a plan that was adopted in 2009, the current and future environment is significantly changing in terms of our adjoining counties and within Boone County, and the plan must reflect these change/opportunities/challenges that Boone County faces. Recognized in 2016 as one of the fastest growing counties, infrastructure/roads/community amenities/rural preservation are more important than ever and the plan needs to incorporate the impact of this surge. Developing a vision for diverse lifestyles will open doors for economic growth.
9. How can the actions and decisions of the Boone County Council be more open and transparent to the public? BACKGROUND: Good examples of how to provide open and transparent local government can be found on the Town of Whitestown web site at http://www.whitestown.in.gov/. ANSWER: Boone County website is ancient and needs a complete revision. Audio remote access to council mtgs. Social Media strategy to communicate significant issues/decisions/announcements.
10. Should the individual votes of Boone County Council members be recorded in meeting minutes so the members can be held accountable for their public policy decisions? ANSWER: Absolutely.
11. Should upcoming Boone County Council board appointments be announced ahead of time so interested citizens can apply? ANSWER: Absolutely: 45 days.
12. Who is your current employer, and would service on the Boone County Council possibly create significant conflicts related to your employment? ANSWER: Cancer Care Group. I do not foresee a significant conflict of interest.
13. What is your campaign phone number, E-mail address, and website (or other online presence)? ANSWER: 317-294-1579; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.freeland4bcc.com/
14. Do you wish to make some additional comments about your candidacy? ANSWER: I appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts and points of view with this group of involved and invested citizen of Boone County. I welcome feedback, thoughts, ideas, and discussions.
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This page was last updated on 04/20/16.