By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The first round of hearings for the Goshen 2013 city budget was approved by the Goshen City Council Tuesday night.
They will hear the second hearings in the Oct. 23 meeting.
The budget presented by Mayor Allan Kauffman was balanced, meaning revenue covers expenditures for 2013, but did not include a trash service, which would add $800,000 to the budget, according to Kauffman. The addition of trash service to the budget would put the city budget over revenue, possibly by around $500,000, according to financial projections provided by Kauffman and Eric Walsh, CPA with Umbaugh and Associates out of Indianapolis.
“Many cities and towns are not in the situation that Goshen has,” Walsh said to the council members in his presentation. He was referencing the extra funds Goshen has in funds like the Rainy Day Fund. “Goshen can be proactive or reactive. Other cities are forced into a reactive position.”
Talk about the trash service centered around the possibility of funding the service through the Rainy Day Fund until an agreement about a trash fee or other way to pay for the service could be met. Kauffman said he was agreeable to the possibility, citing the benefit of time to make an educated decision about how to pay for trash in the city.
“It’s a decision that doesn’t have to be crammed into the budget cycle, when we can have a measured and rational discussion later,” Kauffman said to the council members.
While Kauffman did say there was a possibility of a surplus after property taxes are collected, those funds are not guaranteed, he said. The possibility of extra funds, somewhere around $250,000 to $350,000, would come from the increase to the property tax levee of 2.8 percent, Kauffman said.
The increase to the levee does not guarantee revenue from property taxes if more residents hit property tax caps, Kauffman said. He predicted more residents would hit property tax caps, which provide relief on what residents have to pay in property taxes relative to their income level.
If the city were able to collect all of the extra revenue from the additional 2.8 percent increase to the levee, it would gain about $400,000. However, that situation is highly unlikely, according to Walsh.
“You don’t know how many homeowners that (increase) will push to the circuit breaker level,” Walsh said.
The council members also talked about finding places to cut some, if not all, of the $800,000 needed for trash service. Councilman Thomas Stump said he would provide the mayor and council members a list of ideas no later than Thursday.
However, even if the council members do cut $800,000 from the budget, they cannot add to the budget or force Kauffman to add the trash service line back into the budget under the Board of Public Works and Safety fund, Kauffman said. Kauffman must agree to add the line back in to the budget before approval, something he said the council members would have to convince him of.
Council members also voted to amend the employee pay increase for themselves, elminating their pay increase and instead holding to amounts set for 2012. Councilman Everett Thomas made the initial motion based on the fact council members do not receive health insurance from the city, and thus do not need the increase to cover health costs.
It was approved unanimously on first reading, but the second reading of the ordinance, which covers pay for all elected city officials, will be held until the Oct. 23 meeting.
• The council members approved tax phase-ins for three businesses at Tuesday’s meeting. Lionshead and Dutchman, which have been heard before at public hearings, received final approval of their phase-ins. The Hawks Arts and Enterprise Center LP received its initial approval for a tax phase-in. The Haws Art and Enterprise Center is the for-profit company, run by LaCasa, that will control the Hawks Building as construction and rentals get underway. The tax phase-in, supported by the Redevelopment Commission per terms in the purchase agreement for the property, is for 10 years.
• The council members also approved changes to the ordinance governing the licensing and registering of electrical and mechanical contractors in Goshen. The major changes include the three-year licenses, instead of the current yearly licenses, as well as the elimination of security bonds and the lowering of test scores from 75 percent to 70 percent for licensing, according to Community Development director Mark Brinson.
• The council members amended the ordinance prohibiting the blocking of pedestrian traffic, extending it until Nov. 16, 2013.
• The council also approved the annual compensation for reserve officers with the Goshen police. The approved amounts are the same as they currently are – a $500 clothing allowance and the compensation for time spent in court appearances for time lost.