No cuts this year in New Carlisle’s $5.5M budget

New Carlisle City Council’s proposed 2016 budget calls for about $5.5 million in spending with no cuts, a change from the contentious debate last year.

Council members discussed the proposed budget this week during a meeting in which they expressed concern about the rising water and sewer expenses and whether the city pool should remain open.

The spending forecast is up 12 percent from last year’s actual spending of $4.9 million. Included is a $1.2 million general fund budget, which is down from last year’s $1.3 million general fund.

The proposed 2016 budget is the first under new City Manager Randy Bridge, who was hired after former New Carlisle City Manager Kim Jones resigned during the budget debates last year when the city made major cuts. Council members are expected to vote on it in March.

The city made more than $100,000 in cuts last year, including reducing its police force from four deputies to two and eliminating its bus service, but left its pool open.

But New Carlisle Finance Director Colleen Harris said the city’s 2016 budget appears relatively healthy and doesn’t call for cuts.

“A lot of it is with the income tax levy. That helped support the police so we could put them back and the general fund used to pay for the police department. Now the levy is. That lets our general fund heal,” Harris said.

New Carlisle Mayor Mike Lowrey said the income tax hike for police approved by voters last year helped, but he also praised Bridge and other city leaders for reducing spending.

“We’re definitely moving in the right direction. I think it shows that New Carlisle has definitely got its belt tightened,” Lowrey said.

The city started out in 2014 with only $50,000 remaining in its general fund and ended with $169,000. But the city should end this year with $340,000 on hand, Harris said.

Councilman Lowell McGlothin said he, too, was pleased with the 2016 budget, but expressed concern about the city’s water and sewer funds.

The city received a loan for the water plant in anticipation of more residents moving into the Twin Creeks Subdivision, McGlothin said.

But the development became defunct when the investor in the property died and the population growth never materialized.

The city now pays about $200,000 on the loan for the new plant, he said.

“We did need a water plant, there’s no doubt about that. The problem is we haven’t raised the rates as we should have to help offset that,” McGlothin said.

Officials discussed incremental increases in water rates.

Harris estimated will bring in about $796,000 in water revenue, but the city’s expenditures are expected to be more than $854,000.

“Right now it’s a fund that we’re watching, because our expenditures are a little higher than our estimated revenue at this point. If we don’t work on a solution it will use up the reserves,” Harris said.

Since 2010, the city has lost money on its pool nearly every year, despite the city transferring about $87,000 from the general fund to cover costs.

Harris has set aside about $50,000 in the 2016 budget that could be transferred to the pool if needed.

The pool lost just less than $5,000 last year, down from about $40,000 in 2014.

Council members voted 5-2 last January to keep the pool open through 2015, giving operators this past summer to make changes and turn the tide.

Lowrey said he supports keeping the pool open.

With some hard work, expenses can be kept down, he said, and the pool can remain open for years to come.

Discussions on the pool are expected to continue for the next couple of weeks and council members are expected to vote on the future of the pool at the next council meeting or by early March, Bridge said.

McGlothin said although the pool was $5,000 in the red last year, he said that was “more than acceptable” to keep entertainment available for youth and their families.

“Hopefully, we can see our way clear and get the votes to open it this year,” McGlothin said.