Council works on city’s 2020 budget


HUNTINGBURG — The Huntingburg Common Council spent Wednesday reviewing the city’s proposed 2020 budget.

One major change the council is considering is placing the city communications department’s budget into the general fund and utilities’ budgets.

Historically, the budget has been in the Economic Development Income Tax fund. But because of the various economic development projects currently underway, Mayor Denny Spinner requested that the department’s budget be moved to the city’s general budget.

“As we are growing,” Spinner said, “(the department) is very critical to continuing to grow our downtown and our community.”

Clerk Treasurer Tom Dippel added that the change would help to ensure that the city has $350,000 in EDIT funding to back up redevelopment bonds. “I don’t ever anticipate having to use that,” he said. “But it has to be there.”

The communications department, which has one full-time employee, not only takes care of various communications for the city and community, it also handles multiple community development matters, takes care of the city’s online communications and performs other communication duties throughout the city and its departments. The council agreed that the department and its director, Rachel Steckler, are very valuable.

“It’s a necessary department, that’s for sure,” Councilman Steve McPherron said.

Funding for Destination Huntingburg and community development events would also be under this budget.

The bulk of the department’s budget, $110,000, will be in the general budget. The rest the budget, $60,000, will be split among the utilities, since they also use the department’s services.

Councilman Kerry Blessinger said the benefits that come from the department’s work are financial. That has and will continue to outweigh the budget costs, he said.

The department’s budget will add 1.3% to the city’s total budget, Spinner noted.

Council members also heard that a request will like come to them to increase the cost to ride the city’s transit van.

Director Jacque Lueken suggested increasing the cost of a round trip from $2 to $3, and the cost of a one-way trip from $1 to $2; the cost of additional stops in a particular trip would increase from 50 cents to $1.

The changes would generate an additional $3,000 to $4,000 annually, which would help the transportation budget, Lueken said. She mentioned that the wages for her three part-time drivers are now completely covered by the transportation budget. Before, the drivers also helped with front desk duties at City Hall. But that is no longer the case.

Council members said they will take some time to think about the changes before making any decisions. The last time rates increased was in 2012.

Some new positions are being considered in the 2020 budget. The street and safety departments share an administrative assistant at the new street department building; that salary is in the new budget. The street department now has a full-time mechanic that was added to the department this year.

The parks department plans to add a full-timer mower to its budget and cut down on part-time help. Director Larry Altstadt explained that a full-time person is needed to keep up with the mowing, weed eating and other lawn work that needs to be done at the city’s different parks and along the walking trails, including the new one near the overpass.

Council members heard about the increased costs in utilities and other expenses that come with having a new street department facility, and the need to repair facilities, like city hall’s roof. They also heard about equipment needs, like the police department’s request to replace two of its older police cars, a 2007 and 2010 model.

Changes made in the budget proposal will be made by the clerk-treasurer’s office and given to each council member for consideration. The proposed budget will publish online for the public to see and a public hearing will be held to gather comments before the budget is considered for approval.

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