After the final 16 budgets were presented to the Warsaw Common Council Monday night, many of them will still need adjusted because the city’s health insurance premium is going to be higher next year than expected.
Mayor Joe Thallemer explained, “We got some news last week that our health insurance premium had risen higher than what that preliminary number was.”
At the Aug. 7 council meeting, Thallemer said instead of overbudgeting the city’s health insurance payments at 12-14% for next year as has been done in the past, and then making cuts later, he said he wanted to be more realistic this year and health insurance budget increases were kept at 4%. Preliminarily, the rate increase for 2024 is expected to be 2.6%, but the city would know for certain last week.
Thallemer told the council Monday that he took a look at it and the city had a “horrible” month for health insurance claims.
“They take 24 months of data and average it out. They use 60% of the entire trust – their claims experience – and they use 40% of the city’s experience, so they blend that and that’s what gives us our rate,” Thallemer said.
The city’s rate ended up at 6.7%.
Thallemer said he thought that was a pretty big jump especially considering they had a preliminary number of 2.6%. He checked with the trust but unfortunately the city had a really bad month for claims.
While the 6.7% is still well below the medical inflation rate, Thallemer said he was comfortable with it and there was no denying the numbers, but the departments are going to have to cut back a little bit for their insurance.
Earlier in the meeting, Thallemer also talked about the city’s assessed valuation (AV).
“Our assessed value, our numbers have come in and I think we have a $55 million increase in AV on the civil side, about $78 million on the fire territory side,” he said. “… The maximum levy is going to put us pretty close, maybe even a smidge under, from where we were last year, so the AV is going to take care of that, those two levies.”
Last year the fire territory didn’t go to the full levy but probably will this year. The city also will have about a 3-cent increase in the debt service because of the Parks and Recreation Department’s office building and the eight-year bond for it.
“We’re not going to be at $1.18 (per $100 of assessed valuation), but I think we will be within the 4% levy increase, so I’m pleased. The numbers are fine. We will still have to have cuts because we can’t spend what we can’t raise. We’re potentially going to the maximum levy, but if the budgets are above that, then we’ll know that. We’re still waiting on some tax revenue numbers. It’s still a work in progress,” Thallemer said.
Justin Taylor presented his building and planning department for 2024 at a proposed $945,289, a 4% increase over 2023’s $906,345. There was a question from Councilman Mike Klondaris about a 24% increase in PERF (public employee retirement fund), which Taylor said he would look into.
Jeremy Skinner, community economic and development director, presented eight budgets. All of the budgets except for the Redevelopment general fund are taxes but are collected as an increment, then go into a fund and then are allocated to be paid on projects, Skinner said. The redevelopment general fund is a tax-rate supported fund and the only fund that is, he said.
The budgets he presented – and which previously were approved by the Redevelopment Commission – were for Warsaw Technology Park, $1.8 million; Redevelopment general, $265,000; Marketplace TIF (tax increment financing), $75,500; Redevelopment Allocation (downtown TIF), $620,500; Northern Residential TIF, $335,000; Southern Residential TIF, $250,000; Redevelopment Northern TIF, $6,058,344; and the Winona Interurban TIF (also known as the Gatke TIF), $60,000.
Warsaw Police Department Chief Scott Whitaker presented three budgets, with the first being the general police fund. It includes an increase for salaries due to the possibility of a 43rd officer to be hired and assigned as a school resource officer. With the additional officer would come additional costs such as benefits, equipment and a vehicle. It would be offset by contracted agreements with Warsaw Community Schools by $180,200 plus an additional $111,800 if the 43rd officer is approved.
The 2024 proposed budget for the police general fund is $6,975,880, or a 9.38% increase of $598,422 over 2023’s budget of $6,377,458.
The law continuing education fund is revenue driven and is proposed at $26,500 for 2024, an 8.62% decrease from 2023’s $29,000.
His third and final budget was the police pension fund and is proposed at $280,640 for 2024, a 26% decrease of $98,605 from 2023’s $379,245 budget.
Street Superintendent Dustin Dillon gave presentations on five budgets. The general fund is proposed for 2024 at $6,604,377, about a 10.1% increase over the 2023 budget of $6,000,645.
The unrestricted motor vehicle highway (MVH) budget is proposed at $450,000 for 2024, a 50% increase over 2023’s budget of $300,000. The restricted MVH budget is proposed identical to the unrestricted MVH budget as they are required to be equal.
Local Roads and Streets is proposed at $350,000 for 2024, the same as 2023; while the Wheel Tax fund is budgeted at $700,000 for 2024, a 16.67% increase over 2023’s $600,000.
Twenty-five budgets from seven departments were presented at the council’s Aug. 7 meeting.
Thallemer said Monday that next month the council will dive into some of the council contracts. He said they will balance the budget by the end of the budget process and his guess was that cuts will be necessary as there always is.
“The department heads understand that you just can’t spend what you don’t take in,” he said.