Carmel city budget passes with funding uncertainties

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By Karen Kennedy

Carmel Redevelopment Commission board member Dave Bowers announced at the Oct. 21 Carmel city council meeting that the organization will make only one-fourth of its projected contribution to the city budget in 2014. Instead of the $2 million that was built into the city’s 2014 budget, Bowers said that the CRC is only able to contribute $500,000. The city’s $127,402,702 budget (which included that $2 million in revenue) passed anyway.

The CRC did transfer the $1.5 million due to the city for the budget less than one hour before the council meeting started.

“While I am grateful for this contribution, to have numbers thrown at the council just minutes before a meeting does a disservice to the citizens,” city council member Luci Snyder said. “Also, our 2013 budget was built on that promise of a contribution, which was approved in July. If those funds had not arrived by the end of the year, the city’s account would have been in a negative balance, which the state does not allow.”

Council President Rick Sharp was out of town but asked Eric Seidensticker, who conducted the meeting in Sharp’s absence, to read a statement he had prepared in which he called for a 5 percent reduction of the overall budget before passing. (This was written prior to the CRC’s announcement.) Snyder and Seidensticker agreed with the request.

“This budget does not make sense,” Seidensticker said. “We have to base it on what we know we have. We have to cut it by at least $1 million to account for the CRC.”

Several council members also questioned the fact that projected favorable outcomes from three separate legal battles are also built into the CRC’s budget.

“Have you budgeted money in the event that you don’t win those cases?” Snyder asked. “What is your plan if you lose?”

“We come back here,” Bowers said.

Mayor Jim Brainard assured the council that the budget could be reappropriated after the first of the year, referencing the fact that the CRC has numerous assets it is trying to liquidate to improve its position.

“We cannot run a budget that is not balanced,” Brainard said. “If the revenues don’t come in, I will cut the budget.”

In a 3-3 split, Snyder, Schleif and Seidensticker voted against the approving the budget, while Carter, Finkham and Rider voted in favor, which gave Brainard the right to cast the deciding vote. The budget passed 4-3.

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