ANDERSON – For the past five years the Madison County prosecutor’s office has supplemented salaries with discretionary funds, a source that Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said has run dry.
Cummings said Wednesday that his office is the most underfunded in the state for counties with a population greater than 100,000 and that it needs funding from the general fund to operate.
The office has 11 full-time deputy prosecutors who are paid $66,981 per year from county coffers.
“We’ve spent $1.8 million from the three discretionary funds since 2015 to supplement salaries,” Cummings said. “Those are funds intended for community programs.”
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Hanna said that with the discretionary funds supplementing salaries, the Madison County office is not competitive with other counties.
Hanna said that since December the office has hired five new deputy prosecutors.
“We’re losing prosecutors to higher paying counties,” Cummings said. “Most of the new deputies are coming right out of law school, but we don’t have the money to pay the more experienced deputies.”
Hanna said Madison County is ranked sixth of Indiana’s 92 counties when it comes to major felony crimes and is third in the state for sending offenders to prison.
“This is one of the most challenging prosecutor’s office in the state when it comes to major felony crimes,” he said.
In comparison, neighboring Hamilton County has 25 prosecutors with a starting salary of $70,739, and Tippecanoe County has 31 prosecutors with a base salary of $67,984.
Cummings said he has not requested additional funding from the Madison County Council to operate the office since 2013.
He believes the office should be receiving some of the local income tax to fund public safety.
That fund took in $2.7 million in 2020 with $1.9 million available for the sheriff’s retirement fund and for problem solving courts. Approximately $700,000 is used to pay off the Central Dispatch and radio system bonds.
Cummings said two legal secretaries and an investigator are paid from the discretionary funds.
He is requesting $150,000 from the County Council next Tuesday to pay the salaries for those three positions.
Hanna said the office is underfunded by up to $600,000 annually.
“We need $300,000 to get by,” Cummings said. “If we don’t get the funding, we will have to lay people off.”
Hanna said the office is not requesting additional deputies, but the request for additional attorneys will become necessary in the future.
He said the office doesn’t have the capacity to provide the necessary oversight for each criminal case.
“We’re doing well,” Cummings said. “But if we don’t receive more funding in the next two months there will be a mass exodus from the office.”
Currently one deputy prosecutor is handling more than 1,000 Level 5 and Level 6 felony cases per year and the deputy working in the city and town courts has between 3,000 and 4,000 cases per year.
Hanna said the office also needs to hire two additional investigators to help handle the caseload.
He said Madison County pays investigators a starting salary of $35,000 per year and Tippecanoe County is paying $74,000.
“We need some help,” Cummings said. “We should receive some of the public safety fund revenues.”