City looks to cut budget

Seymour officials are looking at three options to cut more than $300,000 from the city’s 2018 budget.

The option that would save the most money and be the easiest involves moving the cost of fire hydrants from the city’s budget to city residents, said Mayor Craig Luedeman.

That would mean instead of the city paying Indiana American Water Co. $445,000 annually to lease the fire hydrants, residential customers would see a new $4.19 charge on their water bills each month or $50.28 per year to pay for that service.

City council is expected to discuss the issue during tonight’s regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. at city hall. The meeting is open to the public.

Luedeman said Seymour is one of three out of 50 communities serviced by Indiana American Water that doesn’t bill residents for fire hydrants.

The new charge would come as a “shock” to many, Luedeman said, but technically residents already are paying the city for the hydrants through their property taxes, he added.

Under the proposal, non-residential customers, including churches, schools, the hospital and other nonprofits would have to pay the fee too, based on the size of their water meter. Currently, since they do not pay property taxes, they do not help cover the cost of the city’s hydrants.

By doing it that way, the city stays within the 4 percent budget growth allowed by the state, Luedeman said.

The second option to cut money would include not giving city employees raises and not hiring new employees.

In the proposed 2018 budget, which is an overall 7 percent increase over last year, Police Chief Bill Abbott has requested money to hire two new officers and two more dispatchers.

Abbott said the new positions are needed now to prepare for upcoming retirements and more dispatchers are needed to cut back on overtime costs.

There also is a need for one new mechanic in the Department of Public Works and one new public transit bus driver, Luedeman said.

By not giving raises and not hiring a mechanic, one new officer and one new dispatcher along with $26,000 in potential cuts in DPW’s budget and the $20,000 saved next year due to not having a city election, the city would save a total of $313,044.

Option 3 to lower the budget would require each department go line by line in their own budgets and cut 2 to 3 percent out.

Finance committee chair Lloyd Hudson said he favors the first option because it doesn’t require cutting city employees or services.

“I hate to cut what we need,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of needs. Our city is growing. There are more areas to cover.”

But it’s still a hard decision to make, he added.

Council President Jim Rebber said none of the options are what people want, but a decision will have to be made.

“With one, your city employees are going to be extremely perturbed,” he said. “I think the second option will be a shocker for our residents.”

When people see the city’s general fund budget advertised in the paper this week, the amount — $13,346,516 — and proposed tax rate will be higher than it will come in, he added.

“We have to advertise high in order to make our cuts,” Luedeman said. “After it’s advertised, we can’t add anything, we can only subtract, and if we don’t make the cuts, the state makes the cuts for us.”

Finance committee member John Reinhart said the city can’t keep making short term fixes for financing.

“You can’t just keep kicking the can down the road,” he said. “The city is growing. It has needs.”

And some of those needs are going to be costly, including renovations to city hall, a new fire station, a new aerial fire truck, new police cars and other vehicles for DPW and the parks department.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Seymour City Council meeting

Where: City Hall, 301-309 N. Chestnut St.

When: 7 p.m. today

On the agenda: Discussion on options to cut the 2018 budget