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Mayor responds to state budget mandates

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The City of Brazil has responded to the mandates of the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance by trimming another $200,000 from its already-lean General Fund budget for 2006.

Mayor Tom Arthur submitted a revised budget to the state Monday. The city council passed a general-fund budget of around $2.2 million Sept. 20, but the state asked city officials to tighten their belts. Arthur and council members convened a special meeting Friday, conducting a line-by-line evaluation of the budget and eventually reducing the general fund to $1,943,480.

Arthur said some of the cuts stung more than others, but expressed relief that the city was able to make the necessary changes without reducing payroll.

"We were looking at the possibility of a police officer or firefighter being laid off," he said. "But we dug a little deeper, and fortunately we were able to avoid that."

Though several of the cuts may be hard for the affected departments to swallow, Arthur said the numerous small reductions allowed the council to avoid one or more major slashes.

"There was a lot of nickel-and-dime stuff that we did to get to ($1,943,480)," he said.

He has nixed plans to attend his regular schedule of conventions and seminars this year. "Those types of things are out," the mayor said.

Key Adjustments:

-Sales of employee vacation time

One of the cuts specified in the revised budget would reduce the amount of vacation time an employee can sell back to the city.

City employees are now allowed to sell two weeks of the vacation time they have accumulated. Arthur said the budget issue demanded that the number be reduced to one week, for a probable savings of $17,000.

The mayor said the measure must be passed as an ordinance by the city council before it takes effect, adding he would like to restore the original system as soon as possible.

"We're hoping that'll just be a one-year thing," he said.

-Paving budget

Arthur reported the council has eliminated $40,000 from the city's paving budget for 2006, the cut the mayor said bothers him the most.

Large-scale efforts to repair Brazil's streets will be shelved for 2006, Arthur said.

The mayor said the city is now considering an alternative solution to its roads problem.

"The good news is that we're establishing a plan to put together a building corporation to do the streets," he said.

The building corporation would allow the city to borrow a large amount of money-- "a one-time shot," Arthur said-- to begin a long-term rehabilitation project.

-Building permits

Council members agreed to raise the prices of building permits 20 percent. Arthur said the increase was easily justifiable, as permits have not increased in price since the passage of Ordinance 12-1979 almost 27 years ago.

The city has averaged about $25,000 in annual revenue from the sale of building permits, according to Arthur.

"This should bring an additional $3,000 a year," he said.

-Payments on city vehicles

Arthur reported the city was able to eliminate a sizable chunk of the budget earmarked for vehicle payments. The city deferred the final two payments on a ladder truck used by the fire department-- which add up to $31,000-- until next year.

The original budget had also included the final payments on three police cars, purchased in November 2003. Arthur said he learned during his research that the vehicles were already paid off (he speculated a payment must have been made when the vehicles were purchased), freeing up about $23,000.

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