Carmel City Council to discuss 2017 budget Oct. 3

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The Carmel City Council will consider a $142.7 million budget for 2017, up from a $125.2 million budget the year before.

The general fund is proposed to increase 8.5 percent, from $79.16 million in 2016 to $85.86 million in 2017.

The budget will be introduced at the Oct. 3 meeting of the Carmel City Council. Anyone interested in speaking about the budget is allowed to attend the meeting at 6 p.m. at city hall and speak for three minutes during the public hearing. Interested speakers are encouraged to arrive before the meeting to fill out a card to speak.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the budget increase is due to inflation and population growth. He said the city is growing to at least 90,000 residents, if not more, and that necessitates additional staff members and maintenance for roads.

He said the biggest change for 2017 will be salaries. Several new positions are being hired, such as a civilian position for the police department, an assistant director for the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, new positions in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office, parks department, Community Services Dept. and the city court. Some salaries are also increasing, especially for department heads, which could be going up 25 or 30 percent each. The mayor’s salary is proposed to increase by 40 percent, from $127,946 a year to $179,344. Brainard emphasized all budget numbers are preliminary and can change.

He said many of the aggressive infrastructure improvements are bonded out so they wouldn’t be found in the city’s budget. Some funds are repaid through the CRC, which has a separate budget and revenue stream than the city.

“Outside of salary adjustments, there aren’t a lot of changes,” Brainard said. “Here’s why there isn’t much of a change in the budget: All of our capital improvement projects, which are the big changes, tend to be done through financing. The budget tends to be just personnel and basic things, so that doesn’t change much from year to year.”

Brainard said not many people attended the recent budget workshops that were open to the public, but he’s not worried about a lack of community input.

“I see that as a compliment that most people in Carmel trust us that we’re doing a good job,” he said. “We have one of the lowest tax rates in the state and one of the nicest communities in the country.”

Highlights from the 2017 budget include:

  • At first glance, one would see the Office of the Mayor had its budget increase 526.7 percent from $707,942 to $4,436,462. That change is due to the fact that several charge funding items were moved into the Office of the Mayor to avoid city council approval and “red tape,” according to Brainard. These two funds are the Support for the Arts fund, which represents 1 percent of the city’s budget, or $1.14 million, that is dispersed to various arts organization. The mayor traditionally chooses how to divvy up the funds, and the council generally approves it without changes. The mayor also moved the Performing Arts Center (PAC) Grant budget of $2.5 million into the mayor’s office budget. These funds support the Center for the Performing Arts and its operation.
  • The Energy Center, which is a building that heats and cools several structures, including The Carmel Center for the Performing Arts and city hall, is getting an influx of funding because the City of Carmel has often underestimated the amount of money needed for repairs to the building.
  • A proposed ordinance, which is not part of the budget but will be discussed Oct. 3, would discontinue the city’s contribution to retiree insurance benefits for employees hired on or after Oct. 3, 2016, and for those disabled on or after that date as well. Employees hired or disabled prior to that date are grandfathered. Benefits for those killed or disabled in the line of duty are unchanged. The ordinance states that it is because “the benefit amount has been increased on several occasions since the passage,” and “rapidly escalating medical costs and an unpredictable health care environment make it difficult to plan for and fund future expenditures” and “the continuation of the benefit may have an adverse impact on salaries and essential benefits for active employees.”
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