Mayor Steve Collier and Controller Jason Fenwick earlier this month presented the 2019 annual budget to the Lawrence Common Council.
The total requested general fund budget for 2019 is $23,099.531 and will be voted on by the council in October.
Fenwick said if passed, it will mark the third consecutive year for a balanced budget. The city has been awarded for its budget the past two years.
“This proposal is a sound and responsible fiscal plan that will enable the city to serve the interests of its citizens and visitors, providing appropriate resources to serve our community and provide continued public safety protection, maintain our roads and streets, invest in our parks system and continue upgrading our long-term capital needs while striving to enhance the overall quality of life for the citizens of our community,” Fenwick said. “It will also become our submittal to the Government Finance Officer’s Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Program. We are pleased to have earned this award for 2018, our second consecutive year of earning this distinction.”
Here are highlights of the 2019 budget proposal:
- Public safety – The proposed budget includes $24.5 million in public safety funding, which represents a total increase of $14.1 million since 2016, an overall 26.7 percent increase.
- Police – Police funding has increased $4.5 million since 2016, an overall 23.4 percent increase. The proposal includes funding for the purchase of additional police fleet upgrades, marking more than 35 vehicle replacements since 2016. The proposed budget also includes a 3 percent salary increase for all merit officers. The amount also includes continued funding for body cameras, purchase of new tech for enhanced search and rescue and officer training. Since 2016, there has been a 200 percent increase in spending on officer training. The city also is anticipating the grand opening of its new police headquarters in 2019.
- Fire – Funding for the fire department has increased by $9.5 million since 2016, an overall increase of 29.2 percent. The 2019 budget proposal includes a new fire engine for Station 36. With the addition, the fire department has nearly upgraded its entire fleet within the past three years. All firefighters also will receive a 3 percent salary increase and new tech for enhanced search and rescue will be purchased.
- Street department – Funding for the Lawrence Street Dept. has nearly doubled since 2016, an increase of $5.6 million. The 2019 budget proposal includes additional funding for paving, approximately $5 million since 2016. The city also has doubled its funding for sidewalk repairs. More than $250,000 has been budgeted for streetlight repair and replacement through the city in addition to more funding for increased staffing and fleet improvements.
- Parks – Parks funding has increased $1.6 million since 2016, an approximate 70 percent increase. The 2019 budget proposal includes funding for new playground equipment at Explorer Park, resurfacing Harmon Way at Community Park, additional improvements to the Sterrett Center, the preparation of a parks master plan, new lawn mowers and maintenance vehicles, additional facilities improvements and more.
- Economic development – Meyers Plastic will open in 2019 at the corner of 59th Street and Sunnyside Road, creating 68 new jobs. The continued development of the city’s Trades District will continue to accommodate diverse industries and job opportunities in 2019.
“Our proposal is balanced and achieves an important milestone in maintaining a general fund operating reserve of at least 20 percent budgeted expenditures,” Fenwick said. “By comparison, the state of Indiana’s operating reserve is 11.3 percent of expenditures. It is extremely important to maintain this operating reserve, as it provides a safety net against unexpected emergencies and shifts in revenue forecasts. It also allows the city to discontinue interim borrowing with tax anticipating notes for cash-flow needs, providing substantial interest cost savings in the general fund. The city can also now proactively manage its short-term investments, generating interest income, a new revenue source. Additionally, unreserved funds above the 20-percent reserve can be released and used for one-time investments. With this proposal, we are pleased to release nearly $500,000 in unreserved funds for this purpose.”
Fenwick said although finances have been on a major upswing since Mayor Steve Collier took office, the city continues to face a significant challenge funding post-employment benefits to retiring employees. Fenwick said the 2019 budget proposal includes funding and ordinances to mitigate those liabilities
“We are only beginning to address this challenge, and it will take several more years to build these reserves,” Fenwick said.
A public hearing for the 2019 budget proposal has been set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1, and adoption is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17, both at the Lawrence Government Center Public Assembly Room, 9001 E. 59th St., Lawrence.
For more, visit cityoflawrence.org.