Municipal budgets focus on inflation and public safety

Inflation was top of mind for many city officials when approving their 2023 budgets.

Towns in Johnson County, for the most part, saw their budgets increase next year, whether for inflation or to increase funding for public safety departments. Bargersville, Edinburgh, New Whiteland, Trafalgar and Whiteland all approved their respective operating budgets between mid and late October.

Two cities, New Whiteland and Edinburgh, however, experienced shortfalls for 2023 and had to fill them.

Additionally, none of the cities have accounted for the additional revenue in their budgets from the new 0.2% county economic development income tax increase passed in September. Officials say they haven’t decided what to do with it and haven’t included the money in the 2023 budgets.

Bargerville

The City of Bargersville budget will drop slightly from $10.5 million to $10.4 million, though city officials have appealed to the Department of Local Government Finance, or DLGF, for additional revenue from property taxes.

If the DLGF approves an additional 2% increase in levy growth over the 5% cap, it will generate an additional $67,125, Bargersville financial consultant Adam Stone said in a September presentation to city council. . If approved, it will not increase property taxes for residents, but rather will increase the amount of money Bargersville can generate from taxes already collected.

The city’s assessed value rose 12.87% year over year, Stone said.

About a quarter of the overall budget, $2.8 million, is spent on salaries and benefits, according to Indiana Gateway, a budget reporting database.

About 13% of the total budget goes to streets and paving, the highest percentage of the budget of any dedicated fund. The $1.3 million fund includes a $1 million grant for community crossings, including $320,000 from local money, Stone said in September.

Approximately $276,000 of the budget is dedicated to the Capital Development Fund, which includes approximately $170,000 in funding for vehicle leases, including three replacement police vehicles, and approximately $100,000 for undetailed future capital needs. . A budget of approximately $180,000 for parks and recreation does not include salaries and operating experience, and will cover funding for a new skid steer loader and street sweeper, as well as money that can be spent on city parks and trails, he said.

Budgets for streets, police, city operations and parks make up the four largest parts of the budget, although Stone did not specify the amounts budgeted for the police department and city operations in his September presentation. City officials declined requests for comment on the proposed budget.

Edinburgh

Public safety was a priority for the City of Edinburgh for 2023, said Scott Finley, Clerk-Treasurer.

At the end of the summer, the Edinburgh Police Department asked the City Council to consider adding another officer to the department, as it was becoming difficult to cover all shifts with the current number of officers , while allowing them to take time off.

For 2023, Edinburgh has planned to add two new police officers, adding just over $142,000 to the overall police budget. The fire department’s budget has also increased by more than $59,000.

Edinburgh had a shortfall of around $300,000 for 2023, with its total budget falling from $8.1 million this year to $7.8 million next year. With the deficit, however, Finley said the city was fortunate to have a good operating balance to support him.

Edinburgh’s total general expenditure fund – which pays for core city operations such as salaries, police, fires and the swimming pool – has seen a drop of around $300,000. Finley said that may have decreased due to funded capital projects in 2022 that are not recurring costs, such as the City Hall construction project.

Inflation was also a concern for next year, as it is with all budgets. The city typically makes adjustments for inflation every year as the year progresses, but 2023 is expected to be worse than usual with the current high rates, Finley said.

New Whiteland

The City of New Whiteland had to dip into some of its reserves to fund its 2023 operating budget, said former clerk-treasurer Maribeth Alspach.

New Whiteland saw its budget increase by more than $1 million from this year’s $4.5 million budget to its projected $5.7 million budget for 2023. Its general expenses fund grew from $2.5 million to around $2.8 million.

After meeting with the DLGF in May and learning that the city would have to draw on reserves, Alspach and the city council asked all department heads to cut budgets where possible.

The result was that all departments cut thousands of dollars from their budgets, so that New Whiteland was able to reduce the initial amount it thought it needed to draw on reserves by 83%.

The city has taken expensive items out of the budget, such as city vehicles and equipment, and those items will be funded from the rainy day fund when needed, Alspach said.

“We are fortunate to have cash reserves and we have no debt – due to the great leadership and fiscal responsibility of our board and employees,” Alspach said.

Inflation is a “very real concern” when looking at the budget for 2023. Everything costs more, and it’s hard to predict what will change next year.

“Prices for utilities, gasoline for our vehicles, insurance, supplies — everything costs more and no one can predict how much more costs will rise in 2023,” Alspach said. “That’s why we’ve worked so hard to reduce our expenses so that we have cash reserves for these kinds of expenses.”

Public safety, maintaining public services for residents and avoiding off-budget spending were priorities for the city’s 2023 budget. The city also hired a new police officer, Alspach said. A total of $162,000 was added to the police budget for the city, and officers, including the chief, received raises.

Trafalgar

Trafalgar’s total budget increased from $974,000 to just over $1.3 million for 2023. An increase of about $63,000 came from the city’s general fund budget, for most operations of the city.

The largest increases are in the police budget, where Chief Charles Roberts has called for an overall increase of 11%, which includes adding $5,000 to the salary of each full-time officer. Fuel costs have also increased for the police department.

However, city council members are still debating the increase in police salaries, despite it being budgeted for. Wages will not be decided until council passes the wages ordinance this month, said Donna Moore, clerk-treasurer. Last month, council members debated Roberts on raising Trafalgar officer pay, saying it may not be within the city’s means.

Other increases were made to the city’s operating budget, with wage increases for part-time city employees, increases in liability insurance and increases in utility costs, Moore said.

Inflation was also a concern when drafting the 2023 budget for Trafalgar, and the budget was adjusted across the board, Moore said. Inflation has driven up the costs of things like fuel, insurance and utilities for the city, she said.

Trafalgar also applied to the DLGF for an excess tax levy remedy to collect additional revenue from property taxes. Municipalities are permitted to submit this appeal if the average growth in assessed value over the past three years exceeds the average growth quotient of the statewide maximum levies by at least 2 percent.

This appeal will not increase taxes for the citizens of Trafalgar, but rather will increase the amount of money the city can generate from taxes already collected. If approved, Trafalgar would collect an additional $42,650, Moore said.

Whiteland

Whiteland’s budget for 2023 remained largely the same as this year, with few notable changes, said city manager Jim Lowhorn.

The city added about $400,000 to its general operating fund, bringing it to $1.8 million for 2023. All city employees, including police, are set to receive a 5% raise in 2023, a said Lowhorn.

Other than that, there were no noticeable changes, he said. The city wants to spend within its means, without excess, Lowhorn said.

The city’s total budget for 2023 is approximately $3.5 million, with $350,000 in debt service for the payment of a bond. The debt service fund was added for next year to begin paying a $7.2 million bond the city is taking on to help fund infrastructure improvements around a mixed-use development in city ​​by Westfield-Based Patch Development.

“Whiteland has been successful in ensuring the funds we have throughout the year and will continue this trend in the future. You have to make what you have work,” Lowhorn said.

Daily Journal reporter Andy Bell-Baltaci contributed to this report.