County budget talks Wednesday gave way to a heated debate about the county’s responsibility to ADEC, a county-wide organization that helps residents with developmental and cognitive disabilities.

Elkhart County has contributed to ADEC since the 1970s when the taxpayer-funded county home was disbanded, according to David Hess, vice president.

Today, the question is whether the county can still afford to give money to the non-profit while facing an ever-shrinking budget.

“I don’t think anybody believes it’s not a good idea to support that effort and people who can’t take care of themselves,” John Letherman, council president, said during a break between budget hearings Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Or if it isn’t a question of funding it altogether, perhaps it’s a question of how much to kick in.

“The question is, with a $17 million cash flow out there, how important is our $450,000? Could it be $350,000?” he asked.

Terry Rodino, county commissioner, gave an informal but emotional testimonial of ADEC’s services.

His late brother Timothy had Down syndrome and was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He heavily relied on — and loved — the people and services of ADEC, Rodino said.

“I think if you pull anything out you’re doing an an injustice to the community,” he said.

Rodino accused the council of having a target on ADEC’s back and asked how many members have taken time to visit the organization when invited. Nobody responded.

Councilman Darryl Riegsecker expressed offense to Rodino’s comment about targeting the organization.

“It’s not a judgement on ADEC,” he said “I used to do Ride-a-Bike every year. If we have the money there to fund them, that’s wonderful. That’s the question.”

In the past, Riegsecker has questioned the county’s financial responsibility to ADEC.

Mike Yoder, county commissioner, harshly criticized the council for debating ADEC funding without considering cuts to other “quality of life” departments, as Councilman David Ashe called them.

“I’m a big supporter of 4-H, I’m a supporter of (Purdue Extension Elkhart County), but what does Extension do for the community in comparison to ADEC? Why are you prioritizing Extension over ADEC?” Yoder asked. “Those are the tough decisions I think you need to make.”

Yoder’s perception is that the council wants to “whack ADEC” so they can tell the public they made cuts before increasing taxes, he said.

Raising income taxes is being considered by the council, but no decisions have been made yet.

The debate went on for a while with no clear consensus, but several council members seemed uneasy with the prospect of cutting ADEC’s funding.

“We’re walking a philosophical tightrope here and I think everybody has to weigh their conscience,” David Foutz, councilman, said.

Hess calculated that it costs the county about $2.25 per capita each year to “take care of folks that need care.”

“That’s pretty cheap,” he said.

The council will hold work sessions on the county budget Thursday, Sept. 18, and, if needed, Friday, Sept. 19, and Friday, Sept. 26.

A public hearing for the 2015 budget will be at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18.

Source: The Elkhart Truth