As budget time looms for Indiana local governments, the Jefferson County Council is asking department heads to tighten proposed budgets for next year to help battle rising insurance rates and expenses.

For 2014, the council approved a motion Tuesday to request that departments decrease the annual proposed budget by 5 percent - compared with 2013 - and exclude raises.

That's not to say raises will not be considered, but the County Council said it is faced with mounting expenses - specifically in the public employees retirement fund - and health insurance increases. Once the budgets are submitted, the Council will review the requests and re-evaluate its finances.

"It might be a year that they don't get a raise," said councilmember Laura Boldery. "I don't like to talk that way, but those are the facts."

Council President Bill Hensler said the county is in a situation where it can do one of four things: Raise revenues, cut employees, cut benefits or cut expenses.

"I think the first thing you do is cut expenses," he said.

He added that having the each department trim its budget gives the Council a better idea of where to find additional savings.

"I think it will help us a lot and help them to participate," Hensler said.

The council will hold its budget hearings in September, but budget proposals are due July 1.

Also at the meeting, council member Larry Wynn volunteered to represent the County Council on an independent group of local officials that will be tasked with establishing an interlocal agreement for a county-wide economic development advisory group.

The board was created through a City Council resolution authored by Councilman Kevin Kellems.

The County Council did not entertain a motion to formally assign a representative to Mayor Damon Welch's JC-INVEST board, which was designed to include officials from the mayor's office, City Council, County Council, Board of Commissioners and town of Hanover, as well as private sector representatives.

Wynn said he was only willing to join an independent group of elected officials to "hammer out an interlocal agreement" but would not consider joining the mayor's board.

The council unanimously voted to assign Wynn to the independent group.

County resident Tami Hagemier reported that a group of residents has formed a committee to offer financial support to children living in poverty throughout the county and asked the County Council to contribute $5,000 toward an endowment.

She said the idea began while the group was discussing recent entrance fee hikes at Crystal Beach swimming pool. From there, residents formed a preliminary committee and began offering donations.

The group is working with the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County to set up a self-sustaining fund.

In addition to the endowment, she asked the council to provide a representative to serve with the committee. Keith Gaffney volunteered as the County Council representative.

"We've really got great citizen input, but at this point, we feel obligated that if we're going to be asking for this amount of money that we need to be hearing from our elected officials," Hagemier said.

In other business:                                            

• Whitney Wyatt, director of Madison Main Street Program, asked the county to contribute $15,000 toward the program's budget next year.

This year, the program lost its state bridge mitigation funding, but the city of Madison did award $27,000.

In the past year, Wyatt said the program has worked to further develop downtown by implementing - which gives web visitors a virtual tour of local participating stores - and expanding on events like Fourth Friday and Music in the Park. Wyatt said the Main Street Program also is looking to raise donations during those events.

"We want to raise at least $20,000 a year," she said of the programs.

• The county will hold a tax abatement hearing for Century Tube. The company was granted tax abatements in 2004 and again in 2009.

This year, the company reported that it has increased its employee numbers by 23 since 2009. The county will hold a hearing to further discuss the tax abatement with Century Tube.

"This is to be not perceived as something negative," Wynn said, adding that it is a matter of "due diligence" by the county.

• The county approved up to $1,000 to repair a printer in the surveyor's office. The printer in need of repairs is commonly used by the government departments seeking large aerial photos and other documents.

• The County Council denied a request by Clerk Karen Mannix to hire a summer intern. The clerk's office is down one employee and was looking to hire a temporary intern to fill the void over the summer.  Wynn, who voted against the motion, said he would like to see the clerk's office hire a full-time employee rather than hire and spending time to train a temporary person.

The motion was denied 2-4, with Kevin Britt and Keith Gaffney being the two supporting votes. Joe Craig was absent.