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Johnson County Council District 1 Q&A: Pete Ketchum, Republican

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What about your background and experience qualifies you to serve on the Johnson County Council?

Has learned a lot during his time as current member of the council. Will continue to build and use experience and relationships with community members and elected officials to be good steward of county finances.

What is the role of the council and its members?

Council is responsible for setting salaries and the annual budget and making decisions on spending. The council can also decide whether to impose local taxes.

Define conflict of interest. If a conflict were to come up with you as a council member, how would you handle it?

A conflict means himself, family member or business associate could benefit from a decision he would make. Would excuse himself from the vote and inform council members and public of the conflict.


What is the top issue facing the county and how will you address it?

The county budget needs to be balanced. Would continue to push for stable and responsible spending of county tax funds. County should look for ways to increase revenue, such as user fees.

Should Johnson County approve an innkeeper’s tax to help promote tourism? Why or why not?

Money would be used to create a visitor and tourism bureau and promote county businesses and events. The tourism commission created by the county commissioners would oversee specific spending.

What steps should the council take to keep the budget balanced and not have to dip into savings?

Need to reduce spending in individual departments where appropriate. Need to look at creating additional revenue through increasing user fees such as copying fees, court fees or probation charges. County should also explore consolidating services and forming bulk purchasing agreements with other local governments.

The county could raise the income tax to help pay for operating expenses, economic development or public safety. Would you support any income tax increase?

Not at this time. There is not a need to do so now, even with new expenses, such as Superior Court 4. Is optimistic about the upturn in the economy and property values increasing income and property tax collections.

The county wheel tax has been in place for more than five years. Should the county continue to charge this to motorists?

County is in a position where it now relies on those funds. Council reviewed and renewed the wheel tax two years ago. Voted in favor of renewing the tax and reducing the amount paid for trailers and motorcycles.

Would you consider raising fees or taxes for services if there was a shortfall? If yes, what would you increase?

Is in favor of raising fees for services to cover operating costs, such as copying fees or fees charges by courts and probation. Raising taxes would be a last resort.

The council decides if residents should vote on an income tax to support mass transit. Should that question be on the ballot? Would you support the increase?

The topic has come up and hasn’t been discussed. Residents in his district haven’t raised the issue. Is not currently in favor of putting it on the ballot. Concerned about the cost to taxpayers to pay for transit, and most residents would not use bus service.

Are there departments that you feel are spending more than they should be and how would you find savings?

During recent budget process all departments presented spending that was realistic and needed. Does not see excess in any department. Technology changes could provide new opportunities to cut spending.

White River Township is one of the fastest-growing communities in the county. How should services, including road maintenance, police protection and parks be paid for?

Believes township residents pay adequate taxes for the county to provide services. Growth in taxes from new development is keeping pace.

Health insurance for the commissioners and council members costs roughly $9,000 per year per person. Should council members receive health insurance?

Council members shouldn’t get insurance, which would cost more than each member’s salary. Does not have county insurance.

What are the biggest financial challenges facing the county and how would you address them?

Biggest challenge is keeping the budget balanced. County needs to be stable in spending and seek new revenue sources to cover the increasing cost of operating.

How can the county afford to grow the sheriff’s office to keep more deputies on the streets?

Doesn’t think the county plans on growing the sheriff’s office. Unincorporated areas aren’t growing at a rate requiring more officers. The county may need more people to help run the jail in the future.

Jail overcrowding is an increasing concern, and residents have voted down an expansion to the jail. How can the problem be solved? Do you support a jail expansion?

A jail expansion in the future is inevitable. Judges, prosecutors and community corrections have done all they can to reduce overcrowding. The jail was continually overpopulated from summer to winter 2013. The county has not discussed an expansion since the referendum.

The council makes appointments to the park board, E-911 board and plan commission. What would you consider when making these choices? Should more candidates who aren’t involved in government but are reflective of the population be sought?

Seeks people who represent the overall philosophy of the council. Council should seek new candidates with appropriate education and philosophy to serve on boards.

The county will be getting a new court next year. How will new staff be paid for?

Judge’s salary will be paid by the state. The county has saved for the court expenses for years and bought a building with flood relief funds to provide new space for the court. Is optimistic that increasing tax revenue that is expected will help pay for three to four new employees needed for court.

Is open government important? Why or why not? What will you do to ensure that the council is open and honest with the public?

Community needs to know what goes on in local government and hold officials accountable. Will continue to obey open door laws. Wants council to have trust and support of the public when acting on any issue.


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