Unbalanced budget

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Noblesville’s 2014 budget calls for $588k in deficit spending

Even with a general fund of $37.16 million, Noblesville will have to dip into its cash reserves as the proposed 2015 budget falls $588,204 in the red.

Deputy Mayor Mike Hendricks said that deficit only exists if all funds are used to 100 percent.

“We always reduce where we can,” he said. “Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean we have to spend it.”

As a result of years of planning, Hendricks said the city has $11.9 million in general fund reserves, which it will use to cover deficit spending and not increase taxes more.

“You need that healthy cash balance,” he said. “Having a solid cash reserve allows you to cash flow your operation.”

Hendricks said one of the main causes for this year’s deficit is “a lot of stuff has come to a head and this is the year it hits.”

The slow return from the recession is a big portion of that issue. Hendricks said the city has had years of job attrition and hiring and pay freezes.

“You can’t keep waiting,” he said. “The cost of doing business is just outpacing revenues coming in. It’s finally coming to a head.”

Despite the dip this year, Hendricks said the city is in a solid fiscal position.

“It’s not been a strong budget year. I don’t think it’s going to be the new norm or in dire straits,” he said. “We find ways to be as efficient as we could and effective to achieve the greatest goods and provide the highest level of services.”

Breaking down the budget

Hendricks begins working on the next year’s budget in May.

“I have three windows of intense work on just the budget,” he said.

Hendricks starts with department directors providing a budget with their wants, needs and wishes. In June, Hendricks and Mayor John Ditslear start getting in to fiscal plan with more accurate projections.

“It’s a really tight budget. Everyone has really cooperated and worked really hard on this budget,” Ditslear said.

“We see what we can move around and fit it into the revenue to come up with a plan. It always comes back different than what I expect every time,” he said. “With tax caps and circuit breakers there is always some difference within reason.”

The circuit breaker has caused several issues with the city’s budget. In 2014 Noblesville was unable to collect $3.7 million of property taxes. That is projected to increase to $4 million in 2015 and $4.1 million in 2016.

“We take a huge hit with the circuit breaker,” Hendricks said. “Revenue is staying very flat. It is going up but it is very slow … Assessed value is growing but it’s not taking measureable jumps.”

“It’s not going to get easier next year or in the coming years,” said Rick Taylor, common councilor.

Common councilor Steve Wood said he is frustrated with the city’s budget issues as a result of unfunded state mandates.

“They raise the sales tax and reduce property taxes,” he said.

One option available is using COIT funds. Hendricks said the city has $15.5 million of funds available in 2015 and plans to use all of them in the general fund.

“We always spend it – 100 percent a couple of years. In 2014 we’ll use 95 percent,” he said, adding that any unused dollars are returned to the COIT fund.

Hendricks said a portion of this year’s COIT funds were used to pay 100 percent of additional street paving requests. One way to reduce costs is contracting work.

“It took a tremendous amount of man hours off us,” Hendricks said.

He said the city tried that this year with landscaping on major thoroughfares and will expand to contracting mowing services on some of the city’s smaller lots to free-up street department workers.

“Hopefully all of the local, small landscape companies jump on this,” said Hendricks. “With the time saved we essentially have four or five new employees without hiring anybody that can work on the concrete program, sidewalks and road crack sealing.”

Challenges

Hendricks said balancing public safety and services is a challenge. He said public safety is 53 to 54 percent of the budget.

“We’re trying to address their needs. We don’t want to decrease, cut or stop anything in public safety,” he said. “We’re trying to address public safety, a new salt barn and maintaining a paving budget. It’s an ongoing challenge to balance the budget and provide services.”

Part of the public safety budget issues stem from the new emergency dispatch radio system .

“It is what it is. It’s a state expense on the city, we had no choice,” Hendricks said.

The city will hire three police officers.

“We had six police officers in until the last round of cuts when we took it down to three with the plan to do another three hopefully next year,” Hendricks said.

Police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the hires will be in patrol cars and will replace two positions. Jowitt said the department will assign one officer to the Hamilton County Drug Task Force which is currently is not a part of.

“It’s a good investment,” he said. “It costs us an officer but we have the entire task force available to us. We invest one but have seven or eight to us.”

Another new position is an intelligence officer which will identify problems as they begin to occur and address them. Jowitt said the third will be in specialized enforcement.

“It’s not during regular patrol shifts. They’ll be utilizing the intelligence officer and crime investigators – if we have accident problems at particular interchanges or a drug problem or work on vehicle break-ins. It will be a patrol officer, just a different swing on the type.”

Hendricks said the city has added four staff members in public safety – three police officers and a firefighter.

Know more

How much do department directors make? Here is the breakdown of bi-weekly pay for the head employees of the city:

Deputy mayor – $3,858.16 ($100,312.16 yearly)

Police chief – $3,711.17 ($96,490.42)

Fire chief – $3,707.31 ($96,390.06)

City engineer – $3,647.20 ($94,827.20)

Planning – $3,331.81 ($86,627.06)

Information technology – $3,278.23 ($85,233.98)

Wastewater utility – $3,278.23 ($85,233.98)

Economic development – $3,198.27 ($83,155.02)

Street commissioner – $3,157.74 ($82,101.24)

Parks and recreation – $3,157.74 ($82,101.24)

Human resources – $3,157.74 ($82,101.24)

Maintenance technician – $2,522.34 ($65,580.84)

Elected officials

For the second consecutive year, elected officials will go without a raise. On Oct. 23, 2012, the common council gave the mayor a 5 percent raise and clerk-treasurer Janet Jaros a 7 percent increase. Council members also voted to eliminate their 2.5 percent and hold salaries at the current level. There were no changes at last year’s budget discussions.

Elected Noblesville officials salaries include:

● Mayor – $112,448 (split evenly between general and wastewater fund)

● Clerk-treasurer – $86,630 (split evenly between general and wastewater fund)

● City court judge – $38,218.44 from general fund

● Common Council president – $1,332 per month (split evenly between general and wastewater fund). An annual salary amount of $3,932.53 from the wastewater fund makes the total $19,916.53 per year.

● Common Council members – $1,165.34 per month (split evenly between general and wastewater fund). An annual salary amount of $3,932.53 from the wastewater fund makes the total $17,916.61 per year.

Budget Breakdown

Fire department – 33 percent

Police department – 22 percent

Common council/Board of works – 15 percent

Streets – 10 percent

Engineering – 6 percent

Parks – 4 percent

Planning department – 3 percent

Buildings and grounds – 1 percent

Mayor – 1 percent

Clerks office – 1 percent

City court – 1 percent

Information technology – 1 percent

Human resources – 1 percent

Economic development – 1 percent


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