Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

April 11, 2014

Bunker Hill dangerously close to bankruptcy

Clerk: 'This town has been running on thin ice. The ice finally broke.'

BUNKER HILL — A last-minute tax refund has saved the town of Bunker Hill from shutting down and temporarily laying off all its employees.

Clerk-Treasurer Lisa Wilson said the town’s coffers would have been completely emptied after making the final payroll payment next month to its eight workers.

After that, the town wouldn’t have a cent to its name, forcing all government offices to shut down, including the town’s community center.

“Literally, after payroll, we were looking at having nothing. Nada,” Wilson said.

The town’s dire financial situation has gradually developed over the last three years due to gross mismanagement by the former Clerk Treasurer Sarah Betzner, who failed to get state approval on the town’s budget three years straight.

An internal investigation by Bunker Hill officials in February revealed Betzner racked up nearly $19,000 in late fees, penalties and interest on unpaid bills during her three years in office.

Betzner also continued to pay former town employees’ health insurance out of the town budget, sometimes for two years after they had quit, said Bunker Hill Town Council President Robert Cox in an earlier interview.

Betzner resigned in January after she again failed to get state approval on a budget.

Once Wilson was appointed to the position later that month, she said she realized the town’s finances were in serious trouble.

Wilson and the town council launched an internal audit earlier this year, which revealed the town had overpaid more than $38,000 in taxes since 2007.

Wilson said she filed for a tax refund to get the money, but the IRS said it couldn’t send the cash for three to four months.

“This tax money was my last resort,” she said.

With a little over a month before the town’s offices would be forced to close, Wilson said she contacted the office of Gov. Mike Pence to ask for help.

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