Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is proposing a more than $172 million budget for the city for 2022, with the nearly $120 million proposed for the general fund, a nearly 9 percent increase from the previous year.
The budget includes a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for employees. Brainard said he plans to propose an ordinance to cap the tax rate at its current rate of 78.77 cents per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate isn’t expected to increase as a result of the proposed budget.
Brainard was set to introduce the budget for a first reading and public hearing at the Sept. 20 Carmel City Council meeting. The council is expected to vote on the budget at its Oct. 4 meeting.
The council held the first of two budget workshops Sept. 16 to review proposed budgets from several city departments. The second workshop was set for Sept. 17.
The following items were discussed at the Sept. 16 budget workshop.
The proposed budget for the mayor’s office is increasing 23 percent, with much of the jump attributed to the city doubling its support for the arts from 1 to 2 percent of the general fund budget, which equates to an increase of more than $1 million.
Brainard said he is proposing the increase because of the growing number of local arts organizations. He said when the city began providing arts grants in 2004, it awarded them to five groups. In 2021, it awarded them to 27 organizations.
Brainard said in 2004 the city committed to spending 1 percent of its entire budget to the arts, but it reduced that amount to 1 percent of the general fund during the Great Recession. He said the city would have spent a “substantially higher” amount on the arts through the years if it had continued to base the spending on the overall budget.
He also pointed to a 2007 study by nonprofit Americans for the Arts that found that for every dollar a city invests in the arts, it receives a sevenfold return.
“Our economic development pillar has been the arts in Carmel,” Brainard said.
But not everyone on the council supports doubling spending on arts grants. Councilor Tim Hannon said that the city already spends much more on the arts than initiatives funded through the arts grant program. He said other spending includes millions of dollars each year to support the Center for the Performing Arts and recent council approvals to fund additional sculptures and a light show on the Midtown water tower.
“What’s the marginal benefit of additional dollars? What’s the best way to administer those dollars?” Hannon said to the mayor. “I don’t think it’s by doubling your budget and allowing you that discretion to buy more Seward Johnson sculptures.”
Hannon said he supports leaving funding for arts grants at 1 percent of the general fund budget, with any additional projects to be funded beyond that amount brought before the council for review. Councilor Tony Green said he agreed with Hannon’s remarks.
BROOKSHIRE GOLF CLUB
The proposed budget for Brookshire Golf Club is only proposed to increase 2 percent for 2022, but some councilors want General Manager Bob Higgins to add an expense next year.
Councilor Jeff Worrell said he’s hearing from constituents that the patio at the clubhouse, which opened in 2019, is underused because it doesn’t have any sort of covering to block the sun and reduce heat in the warm months.
“They’re not using that patio in the afternoon, and they think it’s a waste,” Worrell said.
Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider also encouraged Higgins to consider purchasing a structure to provide shade for the patio, saying that a similar structure was “the best investment” he’s made at both of his restaurants.
“It will increase sales. It will pay for itself,” Rider said. “It’s an expense once, and from that point forward it will be income.”
Human Resources Director Barb Lamb’s proposed $988,350 budget centers around preparing for her successor.
Lamb, who has worked for the city since 1996, will retire in December. She is requesting an additional employee for her office for 2022 so that her successor, who has not yet been selected, can spend his or her time focused on the big picture.
“I’m still doing an awful lot of administrative work, far more than I should be,” Lamb said. “It leaves me not nearly enough time to do strategic work, and I don’t want to leave my successor that way.”