MUNCIE, Ind. — After a series of budgeting meetings, both the Muncie City Council and the Delaware County Council are preparing to vote on their respective 2021 budgets.
Both have faced falling revenue due to the pandemic’s effect on general fund line items, but both have managed to avoid layoffs to employees or stopping government services. Each budget will have a final vote soon.
City starts budget meetings balanced, makes minor adjustments
The city started the budgeting season in a far different state from the county because a balanced budget was handed to the city’s finance committee by Mayor Dan Ridenour.
This meant city council officials only had to make tweaks to a budget with changes they wanted to see. The budget as a whole was balanced out.
The overall budget is downsized considerably from what the city has spent in recent years, in part to try to compensate for expected falling revenue in 2021 and 2022.
Muncie’s general fund, if passed, would be set at just over $24.9 million dollars, more than a million less than what the city was spending in 2018, and down nearly $700,000 from 2019.
The city’s overall expenditures for all governmental accounts, including the general fund, would be $51.2 million. That’s down from $54.3 million in 2018.
The proposed budget allocates nearly $2.5 million in total for roads, compared to $1.1 million for roads in 2019.
Another major area the administration highlighted was an increase for parks. Ridenour’s proposed $2.37 million in parks funding is nearly 16.4% over what was spent in 2019. Much of the increase is earmarked for playgrounds and maintenance.
The proposed budget also accounts for several new city positions, including a deputy mayor. That position was eliminated under former Mayor Sharon McShurley during the city’s budget crisis more than a decade ago. A deputy controller position also is included in this budget proposal.
The proposed budget is able to find additional funding despite falling revenue because of major cuts to outside vendor contracts. These can range from legal services to engineering contractors, all jobs city officials have looked into having done in-house.
Some other changes that the city council examined were with the Muncie City Court.
City Court Judge Amanda Dunnick spoke to the finance committee about making the court full-time because of an ever increasing case load. She said given the amount of cases coming in, the court needs to become a full-time entity.
Dunnick’s request was going to reduce her general fund request by $131,000, because moving to full-time would allow her to make better use of court fees. This would, in theory, cover the cost of operating the court on a full-time basis
Muncie City Council will vote on the budget during its monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 5.
County faces higher climb, still reaches goal
The county council faced a much larger challenge in getting to a balanced budget. County officials had to face cutting nearly $8 million out of the general fund to meet expected losses from the Department of Local Government Finance.
The county’s 2020 budget was just over $49 million.
Donna Patterson, the county’s chief deputy, told council that revenue loss was seen in nearly every account for the county. Miscellaneous revenue, which includes court fees and more, was projected to be down by $1.7 million alone, most of it because of the pandemic.
The council asked department heads to find out what money in 2020 could be given back to create a buffer for 2021. After several meetings, that earmarked $700,000 out of what was needed for cuts.
The commissioners and council agreed to remove the increased bridge tax approved by the commissioners in June because of negative effects it would have on the county’s general fund. Money gathered by that tax, would affect Indiana’s tax caps and therefore remove funding from other line items.
There are no drastic changes to the county’s line items when it comes to what the public would see. No positions have been eliminated, but requests for additional staff were not examined by the council.
The council has looked for ways to trim every line item in departmental budgets, going through each line several times to see how small they could shrink them without causing major issues.
Other changes made were to county insurance, saving several hundred thousand over the next year.
Delaware County Council will have one more budgeting meeting on Oct. 12 to finalize the budgeting numbers before taking it to a vote.
Corey Ohlenkamp is the city/county government reporter. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 765-213-5874. Follow him on Twitter at @Ohlenkamp.
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