Open discussion by elected officials in a public meeting is a good sign of transparency. A special meeting of the Warsaw Common Council Friday afternoon was an example of open discussion before a decision.
The meeting was called to adopt a resolution setting the 2015 tax rate for city residents.
The discussion focused on should the budget remain as originally proposed with a $1.34 per $100 assessed valuation tax rate or accept a budget with over $1,466,590 in budget cuts and 25 percent of the fire territory reductions applied to the operating balance, for a tax rate of $1.229. The final verdict – cut the budget and settle for a $1.229 tax rate.
The final vote was 6-1. Elaine Call was the lone council member voting against the resolution.
Call stated her case throughout the close to 30 minute budget discussion. While others agreed with her points, they could not ask residents to pay a higher tax rate. The current tax rate for the town residents is $1,195.
Call noted budget cuts had already created a deficiency in the general fund (resulting in a general obligation bond) and stressed further cuts will be damaging the “budget’s budget.” Call stated there had already been cuts in expenditures or Line 2. “Now we’re cutting the budgets again.”
Her concern focused on cutting budgets of departments the city needs to help maintain the quality the city expects and the need to keep the general fund from getting into trouble. She was also concerned about the need to build each department’s operating balance. She suggested finding creative means to increase those budgets.
Charlie Smith stated he felt it was “more important to stay within the maximum levy.”
Mayor Joe Thallemer stated the proposed budget stayed under the maximum levy, but not by much. It has been a balancing act to reduce the budget and still provided quality services needed at a lower tax rate. Unlike some communities who have had to reduce employees, Warsaw is not at that point.
Diane Quance questioned if one firefighter could be put back into the fire territory’s budget. While it could, Thallemer stated the rate would rise.
Cindy Dobbins liked the ida of creative ways to generate more revenue. She stated had a hard time accepting a tax levy of $1.34.
Thallemer did state the $1.229 levy does come within the 2.7 percent allowable growth factor set by the state. He also stated the city’s assessed valuation increased and helped keep the rate down.
“From $1.19 to $1.34, I cannot do that to taxpayers, I can’t go that far,” stated Jeff Grose.
Mike Klondaris, while agreeing with Call’s points, felt the city should seriously start looking at annexation to broaden the tax base.
Jerry Frush stated he did not want to see his own taxes go up, nor would the taxpayers, making the motion to accept the resolution setting the tax levy.
One other item of business took place, an amendment to the 2015 salary ordinance for a clearer definition of employee contributions for insurance. This passed unanimously.