Budget introduced, public workshop set

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Westfield city staff publicly introduced the 2020 City of Westfield operating budget Sept. 9 to the Westfield City Council.

Although discussions were brief because of a budget workshop set for Sept. 16, Westfield Chief of Staff Todd Burtron and Tammy Havard, a financial strategist for the city, shed light on some of the proposals for the estimated $42.5 million budget.

At the top of the presentation, Burtron said the budget has three “keystone elements,” the first of which is a proposal for 10 new police officers and three new firefighters for increased investment in pubic safety.

The other two elements include four additional team members in the department of public works and overall personnel investment, which Burtron said would come in the form of performance-based raises.

“The revenues and expenses are about $3.5 million up (from) last year, and the main increases in revenue are local income tax as well as property taxes,” Havard said. “The main increases in expenses are public safety and public works as well as the investment in city personnel. Another increase is the debt service related to road projects and additional public safety capital expenses.”

Discussing overall city finances, Havard spoke on the city’s tax rate. The current rate is 78.8 cents per $100 of assessed home value, but in 2020, the rate is projected to be the same or lower.

But Havard said if the city’s tax rate drops, or even if it was zero, residents won’t save money on their tax bill because of Indiana’s residential property tax cap, which puts a limit of 1 percent on what can be collected. Tax dollars are then divvied up between the school district, which receives more than half of the money collected, and city, township, county, library and solid waste.

“If you have a $200,000 home, your tax bill is capped at 1 percent per the state constitution, so the tax bill would be about $2,000, excluding the school referendum,” Havard said. “Of that $2,000, the city is projecting that we will collect approximately 33 percent of that bill, so about $650. The tax rate does not necessarily impact (a homeowner’s) tax bill. There are a lot of other entities (that receive money) in a tax bill, and the schools have the largest portion of that total tax rate. Even if the city rate was zero, the residential taxpayers would still pay the same amount.”

Havard also commented on the city’s overall financial health.

“We are financially strong,” she said. “Our rainy day fund has increased. In 2015, it was $1 million. In 2016, it was increased to $2.2 million, and now we have a rainy day fund of $3 million.”

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