The Carmel City Council began public discussion of the city’s 2018 budget at a Sept. 8 workshop at City Hall.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard announced he will suggest setting the city’s property tax rate at the same level for 2018 as it was in 2017.
“The current fiscal plan was based on that assumption,” he said.
Overall, there is a suggested 5.9 percent increase in salaries. Some of that is for cost of living adjustments. In other cases, it is to move salaries closer to goals determined after a salary study conducted last year. The salary increases range anywhere from a 4.5 percent increase in the Carmel Street Dept. and a 6.5 percent for the Carmel Fire Dept.
The budget workshops are split into two sessions, with the second session – which is open to the public – set for 1 p.m. Sept. 15 in the council chambers. About half of the city departments presented their budgets Sept. 8. No decisions were made.
One change for the 2018 is an additional $350,000 in the operations department for contract services, which is a 17.77 percent increase compared to 2017. Of the amount, $50,000 is set aside to cover potential costs associated with the ice skating rink because there is no historical precedence for operations and maintenance costs or how much profit it will bring in.
The rest allows the city to cover an anticipated gap in operations and maintenance reimbursement expenses to the Center for the Performing Arts and The Palladium. When the gap is covered, it’s expected The Palladium will have a $1.1 million in operating expenses paid by the city every year. The expense is accounted for in the 2018 budget request and is in accordance with a 2013 agreement.
The Carmel Police Dept. will increase full-time salaries by $586,076 for a 3 percent pay increase and three new officers. There’s also an $8,000 increase in part-time salaries for a deputy prosecutor and an increased pay rate for the city mechanic.
The Dept. of Community Services is proposing spending $195,000 in 2018, an increase from $60,000 in 2017, to plant 60 new trees and replace 590 trees around the city.
“Street trees are hard,” Brainard said. “There are fumes from cars and salt from the snow. It’s been a number of years since we replaced them.”
The Community Relations and Economic Development Dept. will budget $9,000 for Porchfest’s filing to be a 501(c)3 and $8,000 to pay Emily Erghott, executive director of the Carmel Clay Historical Society, as an event manager for Porchfest. There’s also $150,000 for a new portable stage and $9,000 for a new wrap for the mobile stage. There’s also $125,000 budgeted for the Christkindlmarkt and $60,000 budgeted for the ice skating rink.
For the Carmel Redevelopment Dept.’s budget, there is an overall reduction in the budget by $40,000. Director Corrie Meyer’s salary has been moved from full-time salaries to the department’s consulting budget because she is running for state senator in a primary against incumbent Mike Delph.
For 2018, the City of Carmel will merge the Information Technology Dept. with the Communications Center. That’s because several years ago Carmel had its own 911 call center but it was later decided by the state that there was only need for one 911 center in each county.
“Every year we save $800,000 or $1.1 million due to working with the county,” Brainard said. “Some things were still done at the communications center, such as police radio, so it made sense, budget-wise, to combine with the IT department.”
Currently, there are six employees in the communications center building in the Carmel Arts & Design District next to The Pint Room. Brainard said the valuable real estate could be sold and redeveloped, which could mean significant tax revenue for the city. As a result, there is $45,000 budgeted for rent for the communications center since it could move to temporary office space. In the future, Brainard said the department will be housed at the soon-to-be renovated and expanded police headquarters.
City Legal Dept. has requested an additional $125,000 in legal fees for outside counsel. Corporation Counsel Douglas Haney said there is an increase in litigiousness against the City of Carmel, which he said is because Carmel is on the forefront of many municipal advancements, which often invites litigation. The department also is asking for money for an additional litigator to assist outside counsel in defending the city’s interests and to save public money by seeking reimbursement from people who negligently or intentionally damage public property. The salaries budget would increase by $102,623 for 2018, which includes a new employee and cost of living increases.
Brookshire Golf Course had very few changes in its budget for 2018, but soon the city council will decide on a bond that will have $6.2 million for the city-owned course, which includes about $1.5 million in course improvements to speed up the rate of play. The rest of the funds are for a new clubhouse. Brainard said replacing the clubhouse would be less expensive than renovating it.
“The pool will be moved to a separate area. There will be a new clubhouse and we will finally make all of the improvements that we’ve needed,” Brainard said.
Every year, there are between 28,000 and 32,000 rounds played at Brookshire, and most people pay about $28 per per round, according to city officials. The city wants to get closer to $40 per round.
Review the budget
To request a copy of the proposed 2018 budget, contact Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley at 317-571-2414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.