After marathon meetings, budget taking shape

By ALEXANDRA SONDEEN
Herald Staff Writer

FERDINAND — After all-day departmental budget meetings Thursday, the Town of Ferdinand’s 2014 budget is taking shape.

The town’s preliminary budget estimate for 2014 is $1,923,550, down $258,994, or about 12 percent, from the 2013 approved budget of $2,182,544.

Clerk-Treasurer Bev Schulthise noted this morning that the 2013 budget included a construction cost of $499,806 that was set aside for the trails project to connect Ferdinand Community Center, 18th Street Park, Ferdinand Branch Library, Tri-County YMCA and Forest Park Junior-Senior High School. That project should be finished this year and won’t be included in next year’s budget. So taking that funding out of the equation, the town’s 2013 budget is $1,682,738 and the proposed 2014 budget is up $240,812, or about 14 percent.

Schulthise said some of the increase stems from areas of the budget like local road and street and economic development income tax budgets that are funded by state money and income taxes, not by property taxes. Those areas of the town’s budget do not impact tax rates but are included in the overall figures.

The estimated maximum levy and property tax rates are still being calculated. Those figures could be available at the council’s Aug. 13 meeting.

“We were very pleased with how things went overall,” council President Ken Sicard said this morning. “The supervisors did a really great job of looking at what they needed and what they were going to ask for.”

Sicard said the town should be able to accommodate each department’s needs for the year and still have a little breathing room.

“Everyone’s going to get what they need,” Sicard said. “A few aren’t getting some of the things they’d like to have, but they’re getting what they need.”

Town Manager Marc Steczyk said Thursday afternoon that the only significant change in the budget so far is a decrease of $180,000 out of the utilities budget because of the planned purchase of a new bucket truck this year.

“Everybody else was about 1 or 2 percent up from 2013, so really it’s looking pretty steady,” Steczyk said. “There was never a feeling that we had to put the budget up on the wall and cut here, here and here. The (superintendents) came in with pretty sharp pencils, and that’s to their credit.”
Sicard noted that while the state-supplied estimate of tax revenue for the town is lower than this year’s revenue, the slide wasn’t as much as expected.

“We’re getting less tax money, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be getting ready for this,” he said. “You always expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Steczyk said the town is “cautiously optimistic” that it will be able to provide raises for its employees in 2014. But, as in the 2013 budget, raises will hinge upon health insurance costs.

“We want to reward our employees with some type of raise, but we don’t know yet what that might be,” Steczyk said. “It really lies in the hands of health insurance and what that increase might be.
We really don’t have a clue.”

Steczyk said he has heard conflicting information about health insurance costs, which should be finalized by November. He doesn’t know if they will increase normally or drastically.

“I’ve heard it both ways,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Ricky Patton, the town’s new police chief, said his first budgeting season with the town has gone smoothly. He has been poring over the budget since being hired by the town in late June.

“It’s not set in stone yet, but it’s gone fairly well as far as the budget’s concerned,” he said Thursday afternoon.

Patton said he will be working on some equipment requests for the department that he’s hoping to take care of yet this year rather than including them in the 2014 budget cycle.

Sicard said the police department’s 2013 budget does have funding available for some purchases.

The proposed 2014 budget must be adopted by the council and finalized by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. A public hearing will be held before the budget is adopted.

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.




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