ELKHART — Mayor Dick Moore announced the elimination of one position and a reshuffling of duties among some city department heads that will save at least $32,000 next year.
The announcement coincides with release of Moore’s proposed 2014 budget that includes a 2 percent salary hike for all employees.
Moore’s budget proposal would raise the budget from $52 million in 2013 to $54 million in 2014, with much of the increase resulting from rising health care premiums, according to a budget packet released Tuesday, Aug. 27.
Moore’s 2014 budget plan lacks the dramatic cuts seen in his 2013 proposal, which sought furloughs and staff reductions.
The $2 million difference is a comparison of proposed budgets. The difference after furloughs were set aside and police officer and firefighter positions were re-established was about $1.4 million, according to Moore.
Moore points out that his “bare-bones budget” does not include any additional employees and did not restore funding for the Elkhart Jazz Festival or the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County to 2012 levels.
Moore said he wanted to restore funding to previous levels for those two groups, but noted that “reality sets in while staring in the face of diminishing resources.”
Indeed, city officials expect to have less property tax revenues to work with in 2014. Moore anticipates the reduction will range somewhere between $1 million to $1.5 million.
Moore said much of the difference will be made up by closely watching fund balances and more reliance on other funds to supplement day-to-day operations.
Moore’s proposals also assume revenues from compact fees will continue to flow into the Greater Elkhart fund in 2014. Several departments and services, including trash removal, rely on funding from compact fees paid by sewer customers outside of the city.
The city council is still looking to resolve the sewer dispute that has simmered for nine months.
Republicans have supported a new policy that would rely on surcharges that, by law, go to the utility department instead of the Greater Elkhart Fund, where compact fee revenues are channeled.
Moore has proposed reducing the compact fee by half while still using assessed property values to figure the charges.
The council could once gain discuss a compromise when members meet on Sept. 9.
The council will start reviewing the proposed budget on three consecutive nights, beginning Sept. 17.
Moore acknowledged the uncertainty, but downplayed it and said preparing a municipal budget in Indiana is always challenging.
Aside from the unsettled sewer decision, Moore applauded city controller Steve Malone’s work in preparing the budget plan.
“You never truly know what your revenues will be and your expenses are simply forecasts. Some of the money that we’re asking the common council to appropriate will not be spent for 18 months. In the times that we’re living in, that makes our calculations somewhat of a long-term prediction,” Moore said in a written statement to The Elkhart Truth.
An elimination of one position and reshuffling of duties among several department heads began after what Moore called the “unfortunate resignation” of building commissioner Denny Mann, who retired earlier this year after health problems.
That vacancy opened the door for some changes, including the year-end elimination of the brownsfield coordinator’s position held by Denny Correll.
Correll is expected to assume the duties of building commissioner at the first of the year, but will retain his role as neighborhood coordinator.
The work of the brownsfield coordinator will shift to Barkley Garrett, director of economic development.
Crystal Welsh, director of community redevelopment, will take on expanded duties involving tax increment finance districts.
Robbin Miller, who has served as interim building commissioner, will also take on new duties and will assume the title of assistant building commissioner.
In a statement explaining the changes, Moore praised each of the workers for past performances and said the changes will be in the best interests of the people of Elkhart.