Warsaw City Council moves forward with 2019 budget proposal

Warsaw’s 2019 budget proposal is moving along as city council gets closer to a chance for final trims.

On Monday, council approved a series of salary ordinances and conducted a public hearing on the proposed $28.7 million budget.

Rather than facing budgeting problems, city council heard an upbeat report on finances as it considers the 2019 plan.

Budget plans are being boosted this year by a larger-than-normal rise in assessed value, which ultimately expands the tax base to pay for services.

Mayor Joe Thallemer credits growth and investment in the community for the 4 percent rise in assessed value in the past year from $880 million to about $917 million.

The figure in 2016 was $869 million, according to information provided by the clerk-treasurer’s office.

“That’s a pretty significant investment in our community,” Thallemer said Monday night during a city council meeting.

“It’s a result of all the things we do, all the collaborative ventures we have we are able to attract investors to the community, broaden the tax base and … have a real positive impact,” Thallemer said.

That coincides with a steady population growth. Warsaw’s population has risen 8.7 percent since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Department, and Thallemer predicted results from the next census count could be closer to 10 percent.

On top of that, the city will see a significant hike in assessed value in coming years after a series of annexations this year – including a 400-acre addition near the airport that is being developed for industrial use.

The assessed value puts the city in a better position to deal with continued growth.

“I feel pretty comfortable with the budget,” Thallemer said.

The proposed $28.7 million budget   includes requests to add two police officers, the purchase of two new trucks for the street department for snow removal and a full-time administrative assistant for recreation in the parks department.

Asked about the two proposed officers for 2019, Thallemer pointed to his desire to see more patrols on the heavily traveled U.S. 30 and more focus on illegal drug intervention.

Plans to boost personnel for the new fire station on the city’s south side were already covered by Warsaw and Wayne Township, Thallemer said.

The proposed recreation employee in the parks department was sought for last year and turned down. The department is hoping to add the staff as it continues to expand recreational opportunities.

Nobody on city council nor from the public expressed concerns about the budget plan Monday night.

Thallemer said he has not heard complaints from council about the financial plan and thinks the council will consider cuts once final revenue figures come into focus.

The current budget plan represents the maximum the city can seek, and more cuts are expected. One of those areas is insurance where the city budgeted 15 percent to cover health care, but then learned the increase would be closer to just 8 percent.

The budget includes a maximum 4 percent hike for personnel with an approach embraced by the wage committee that calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living hike and an additional 2 percent that can be used at the discretion of department heads.

The proposed tax rate under the current plan is $1.34, but Thallemer predicted with some additional cuts, the city could bring it down close to the current tax rate of $1.27.

The budget lacks any major projects because those are planned for and budgeted separately with bond issues rather than rely on the general budget, Thallemer said.

In other matters, council approved the final step for a small annexation involving Thallemer’s eyecare business on East Center Street north of U.S. 30. Thallemer recused himself of involvement in the process.

Council also learned of three more small annexation requests from property owners who would like to become part of the city before the end of the year.

Two of the tracts are east of County Farm Road. The other involves a farmhouse on the city’s north side.