Members of the Knox County Council this morning will begin crafting their 2019 spending plan.

Council members will, over the next three days, meet individually with each department head — and there are many — to hash out their budgets for next year.

Hearings today are scheduled to go until approximately 4 p.m. with discussions resuming at 4 p.m. Wednesday for another more than four-hour session.

The last of the discussions will pick back up at 4 p.m. on Thursday, and council president Bob Lechner said it's often a marathon race to the finish.

“Sometimes we're there until 1 even 2 (a.m.) in the morning,” he said, “trying to get everything finished up.

“And it's very tiring, especially by Thursday when we've been at it for three days.”

The council members meet with department heads and elected officials — even non-profits like Court-Appointed Special Advocates, Life After Meth and the Vincennes Tourism Bureau — in the commissioners' room at the Knox County Courthouse.

Discussions are usually scheduled in 15-30 minute increments, sometimes more depending on the size of the proposed budget.

“It's at least 25 (departments),” Lechner said, “probably more. There are just a lot of hours devoted to this process.”

But Lechner said council members weren't eyeing any major cuts for 2019. As with most years, he said the focus will be on personnel.

“And that just means we'll be looking at trying to find a way to give raises to our employees,” he said.

Those raises, he said, have varied over the years, often with 2-3 percent annual increases. Sometimes, he said, it's been a flat increase of $1,000 per employee across the board, and last year they were able to work in a higher 4 percent pay raise.

“But that's going to be a priority for us again this year,” he said. “And public safety is always a big item as well.

“Plus, I know we'll be looking closely at the highway department,” he said. “There's a lot of big purchases of equipment they're going to be looking at.

“So I have a feeling we'll be spending quite a bit of time on their budget requests.”

Lechner said the council also continues to try to make the county's business more efficient, particularly with the budget process itself.

He has worked this year with those in the auditor's office, he said, to begin using spreadsheets as opposed to calculating the spending plans by hand, which can result in wasted time and errors.

“So we're hoping that makes this process go faster, better, so we can get done sooner,” he said.

Among those on today's schedule are the county assessor, the treasurer, Area Plan Commission, the county clerk, the Drainage Board, Parks and Recreation Department, and the Health Department.

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