Carmel City Council approves 2021 budget, caps tax rate at 2020 level


The Carmel City Council on Oct. 19 approved a $110 million general fund budget for 2021 and a resolution to cap the tax rate at its 2020 level.

The 2021 budget is 2.1 percent lower than the 2020 budget, a decrease caused in part by 2021 having one less pay period than 2020 and by department leaders being asked to budget conservatively because of the effects of the pandemic.

The budget includes the addition of six police officers, creating a full-time crisis management coordinator position in the fire department and $4.5 million for paving of local streets. For the first time since 2010 it does not include a cost of living adjustment for city employees.

When Mayor Jim Brainard presented the budget at the Oct. 5 council meeting, he did not include a tax rate cap. On Oct. 19 he told the council he didn’t propose one because he didn’t believe it would make much of a difference.

“Half of (homeowners) would not be affected. The ones that would be, if we did or didn’t (have a rate cap), it would be a miniscule amount, a couple cups of coffee,” Brainard said. “I have no objection to doing or not doing one.”

Several city councilors sponsored a rate cap resolution as a late item added to the Oct. 19 agenda, which was approved unanimously.

The resolution caps the city tax rate at 78.77 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Without the cap, the tax rate could have increased to a maximum of 79.99 cents, a 1.5 percent jump. The state’s Dept. of Local Government Finance will set the final tax rate.

Councilor Adam Aasen said he supported the cap to ensure taxpayers aren’t surprised when they receive their 2021 tax bills.

“I feel we’re taking ownership and responsibility of the rate the taxpayers pay,” he said. “Whether it’s an increase or decrease year to year, I feel it’s important the council own that.”