GOSHEN – The city released its 2014 budget information Monday, Sept. 16 as it prepares for budget hearings next month.
A letter from Mayor Allan Kauffman accompanied the budget information highlighting several areas of significant changes from 2013 to 2014, as well as explanations for those differences.
Kauffman also explained in the letter that the Chamber of Commerce had assembled a task force of Chamber members, community members and City Council members Jim McKee, Jeremy Stutsman and Brett Weddell to examine the city's finances and learn about services provided by the various departments and what needs they have.
Included with the budget information was the Chamber's position paper that concluded Goshen has a revenue problem, not a spending one.
The task force set up by the Chamber noted that it would like to see services continued at the level residents are used to and included some recommendations to enhance revenue.
Some of those recommendations included a continued effort to emphasize efficiency in operations; a search for new revenue opportunities such as increased use of user fees to cover services where practical, a one-percent local food and beverage tax if the state allows and the possibility of an “environmental” or trash removal, user fee; lobbying representatives to pass two local option income taxes; and to consider annexation as part of future tax revenues.
In his letter, Kauffman explained the 2014 budget as it stands is a funded budget, not a balanced budget.
That means there is enough money on hand in operating balances to meet the city's expenditures for 2014, but that those expenditures will likely exceed the revenues anticipated for 2014.
One of the significant changes between 2013 and 2014 that Kauffman noted include an increase in the Building Department line as a result of shifting a part-time position to full-time. Half the employee's salary and benefits will come from the Building Department budget and the other half will come from residential lease fees fund.
Some other significant differences can be seen in the police and fire departments lines.
City of Goshen proposed 2014 budget by elkharttruth
The police Department hopes to fill two positions that have been vacant for several years, as well as adding two more positions. Kauffman explained that Goshen's police require further positions to help catch up to the city's growth.
The fire department also hopes to add another firefighter to allow the medic chief to be converted to eight-hour days, rather than work the 24-hour shifts as they currently are doing.
Kauffman also notes in his letter that he added $1 million to the general fund's miscellaneous income “anticipating that Council will take action in response to the task force recommendation to actively seek additional revenue.”
Kauffman said the city council will have several options regarding this increase; it can choose to search for methods to increase the revenue, choose not to search for new revenues and transfer the money from the rainy day fund or choose to do neither.
Kauffman explained that if it chooses to do neither, operating balances will be able to cover expenditures, but operating balances would fall below the 20 percent mark as suggested by Umbaugh and Associates, which Kauffman argued would not be wise for the city's financial future.
Council members have received the budget information and have about two weeks to study the outlook for 2014.
Kauffman said that budget hearings will be held on the first and third Tuesdays in October, but left council president Jim McKee the option to schedule further meetings if necessary.