City OKs Budget On First Reading: $29.6M

(Carli Luca / News Now Warsaw)

A first reading and public hearing on the city of Warsaw’s 2020 budget drew no remonstrators at the common council’s meeting Monday night.

The total of the adopted budget is $29,658,460, with an adopted tax rate of $1.3524 per $100 in assessed value.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said, “The tax rate presented is based on levy figures. Typically, it’s advertised high at this point, but there will be an automatic levy increase because of the annexations. Typically, the levy increase will equal (a percentage of) the assessed value added. By our calculations, about a 6.3% increase in assessed value, so that would go along with a potential 6.3% increase in the levy. So certainly that will be offset by the increase in assessed value.”

He said the adopted tax rate of about $1.35 was based on 95% of the new assessed value, not the full amount, because the state “typically wants you to be conservative in that.”

The city’s total AV increase is 16.4% up from last year, or about $151 million. The amount attributable to the city’s annexation is about $58 million, Thallemer said. “We’re not sure about those amounts,” he said, but the state will make the final determination on those figures.

He said there will be other “significant”  cuts to the budget down the road. He noted the city’s health insurance premium increase was 1%, and the city budgeted for 15%, so a cut will be coming there in the budget.

There will be a general increase of 3% to city employees’ salaries for 2020.

Thallemer reminded the council of the budget timeline. The final hearing and adoption of the budget will be Oct. 7. The general salary ordinance must be adopted by Nov. 1, with the elected officials salary ordinance required to be adopted by Dec. 31.

The budget hearing was opened to the public, but there were no comments or remonstrators.

After it was closed to the public, Clerk-Treasurer Lynne Christiansen told the council that this budget did go over its maximum levy by $421,000; and with the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory budget, it was $866,000 under that maximum levy.

Thallemer said the state will make the final determination on the city’s assessed valuation. He said a good chunk of the $421,000 over the maximum levy will be reduced with the health insurance premium reductions alone.

The council then voted 7-0 to approve the budget ordinance on first reading.

Later in the meeting, Human Resources Director Jennifer Whitaker went over the general, police, fire and elected official salary ordinances. The figures presented were maximum amounts. No action was taken on them Monday.

Whitaker said for the general salary ordinance, everything was increased 3%, “that’s what we build into our budget. That would be the maximum allowed in our salary ordinance that an individual could be earning.” There were a few “corrections” for some positions, including the building inspector at the planning department, the mechanic/groundskeeper at Oakwood Cemetery, the deputy clerk-treasurer and the creation of a new position for the wastewater utility.

Under insurance benefits, she said the renewal came in at just a 1% increase. “So we’re not going to be adjusting the employee contributions at this time this year for that 1% for the health insurance,” she said. The vision insurance did increase 3% so the employee contribution was slightly adjusted to mirror that, but the dental insurance will remain the same “for right now.”

There also were several changes made for the police and fire departments, including the addition of an EMS coordinator for the fire department.

Under the elected officials salary ordinance, Whitaker said those were figured at a 3% increase like all other city positions except for the clerk-treasurer, which was adjusted to reflect her additional duties with the wastewater and water utilities.

In other business, the council:

• Heard from Thallemer that there’s a ton of road work going on – Parker Street, U.S. 30, West Center Street, Ind. 15, East Market Street, North Pointe Drive and CR 300N.

He said he appreciated the patience and perseverance of the public, and suggested drivers try to avoid those areas if possible because it’s not easy. They are not all city projects as some are Indiana Department of Transportation projects.

“I think Parker Street is supposed to start … next week,” Thallemer said before asking City Planner Jeremy Skinner for verification.

Skinner said INDOT was supposed to start this week but the schedule continues to be changed. INDOT has 22 working days to complete the intersection widening project, from start to finish.

Thallemer reminded everyone of the public meeting on U.S. 30 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lincoln Elementary School. City and county officials will be present.

• Approved the expansion of the Winona Interurban Redevelopment Area, also known as the Gatke TIF District. The expansion will allow the council to consider approving a riverfront district to allow a business to apply for a liquor license within the district. Additionally, the expansion will include the Arnolt property to open it up for possible redevelopment.

City attorney Scott Reust updated the council on the Arnolt property.

He said the property has been in receivership for “quite some time.” A few years ago, the city found the property violated the city’s unsafe building codes and assessed fines against the Arnolt property.

The receivership now has less than $800 in its coffers., Reust said.

“We’ve reached an agreement between the receiver, and the city of Warsaw and Kosciusko County that in exchange for not pursuing the unsafe building act and the fine that was levied against the receivership, that the receiver is being requested to transfer that property to the city of Warsaw. Kosciusko County has agreed for that to happen. They’ve agreed to forgive this year’s taxes payable next year, and it’s set for a hearing now on Dec. 20,” Reust said.

If the court accepts the plan, he said for the most part that should end the receivership of the Arnolt Corp. property.

• Approved on second reading a planning ordinance in regards to conflicts of interest in the issuance of permits. The council approved it on first reading at its last meeting.

Reust said the ordinance was mandated by state statute requiring that all municipalities pass such an ordinance. The state statute went into effect July 1.

• Heard from Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins that she’s been working with the Warsaw Community Development Corp.  to formulate a downtown development tour. It’s scheduled for 3 to 6 or 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9. The tour will look at six downtown properties, some of which are currently for sale or lease. One or more condos on North Buffalo Street also will be toured. The tour is limited to 100 people. Anyone interested in a tour ticket can contact Dobbins.

• Heard from Dobbins and City Council candidate Chris Plack that the One Warsaw “Celebrating US” community festival on Saturday had a great turnout.

• Heard from Thallemer that during the Park Board meeting at 5:15 p.m. today, the board will discuss K21’s $1 million grant for an ice rink.