Members of the Syracuse Town Council reviewed the 2014 budgets from department heads during their regular monthly meeting last night. Council President Bill Musser asked why there was such a difference in health insurance costs from one department to another.
Julie Kline, clerk-treasurer, explained in one department, an employee will be adding his family to the health insurance plan. She noted her office recently figured the cost of health insurance is $1,996.80 a month for the family plan, a total of $23,961.60 for 12 months, which costs the town more than what some employees earn in a year. Council members suggested getting quotes to see if a less expensive plan can be found.
Council member Paul Stoelting expressed concern about a $25,000 reduction in street paving. Town manager Henry DeJulia noted a street paving project was in the works, but it would probably be funded through an appropriation.
DeJulia also explained the town’s department heads tried to put together a budget that would reduce the levy and still provide the services residents expected. He noted the 3 percent increase in salaries is to help offset the cost of health care. The estimated budget for 2014 is $1,700,562, which is $97,767.16 under the maximum levy.
Throughout the discussion, councilman Larry Siegel expressed concern about the circuit breaker being hit and said he would not support an increase in the budget because of it.
Jason and Emily Traycoff, along with Tammy Cotton, executive director of the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, came before the council proposing a riverfront development district, which would be a vehicle for off quota liquor licensing. This type of liquor license belongs to the business owner. The license would be non-transferable and cannot be sold.
The establishment of such a district would allow the town to create an arts district by allowing this type of licensing.
Traycoff went through the procedure and explained Turkey Creek would be the waterway considered as “the river” in the riverfront district. The district would be Huntington Street to Dolan Street and Main Street. Musser asked what constituted a river. “We have a creek and a lake,” he said. Traycoff said the term is extremely vague.
Stoetling asked what obligations the town would have other than writing an ordinance allowing it. Traycoff explained the riverfront district would not be for bar business, food must be served and a menu must be presented as part of the licensing process.
Vern Landis, town attorney, has some concerns since Turkey Creek is considered a drain and residents will be assessed a fee for its maintenance next year. After some more discussion, the council decided to educate itself more before making a decision.
In the town manager’s report, the council approved the tax abatement form CF-1 for ASA. DeJulia presented the redevelopment commission’s report. There were no expenditures, no grants or loans. The Tax Increment Finance Districts brought in the following: The TIF district in town, $33,364.73 and the Elkhart County/ Benton Township TIF, which includes the industrial/technology park, $55,869.65.
Work is still going on to get the streets in Oakwood Park dedicated to the town. DeJulia said the legal descriptions can be completed for about $5,000. Council approved the expense.
The Harkless Bridge project will starting soon. Work on the Front Street Bridge is expected to start in September.