Earlier in the year, it was reported by city officials that Carmel was in good shape when it came to money for road repaving throughout the city. But now Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is considering spending more.
The 2015 budget was approved at $4 million for roads, which was a jump compared to previous years. In 2014, the City Council decided to move $700,000 from the city’s Rainy Day reserve account to bring that year’s budget up to $3.3 million.
Brainard said after the election that he might suggest moving $1.5 million from the Rainy Day fund to bring the city’s total to $5.5 million for 2015.
“I’d like to bring it up to $5 million over the next couple of years and catch up,” Brainard said. “We had to deal with a recession and the annexation of Southwest Clay and I don’t want to get too far behind. To pave a mile of road is $100,000 but you don’t want to risk letting the streets get bad. If you have to rebuild the entire road from the base then it actually costs $6 million or more for a mile.”
City Councilor Luci Snyder is considered a guardian of the Rainy Day fund.
“It’s meant for emergencies, not operations,” she said. “I would oppose taking money out of the Rainy Day fund for road repaving unless I was given a guarantee in writing that the money would be returned.”
Right now the fund is at $8.3 million and she’s worried if the amount gets any lower than it won’t represent 10 percent of the city’s overall $78 million operating budget. Snyder said this is a problem because the city’s bond rating is partially based on how much money there is in savings. Brainard said there’s plenty of money in the Rainy Day fund and that bond rating companies look at a variety of factors.
In 2006 to 2010, Brainard budgeted for about $2 to $3 million a year for road repairs, but that number dropped to essentially zero in 2011 and less than $100,000 in 2012.
The roads budget has often been a battle between Brainard and members of the Carmel City Council. City Council President Rick Sharp previously accused the mayor of using road repaving money for other projects. While it’s not illegal and the mayor has the discretion to move money around, Sharp said he would be disappointed to see the city’s savings account to be used for operational expenses.
The mayor disagreed with that characterization saying he was told to cut money from the roads budget with the expectation that it would always be replaced.
“The money has to be spent on streets,” Brainard said. “It’s in a line item that can only be used for repaving.”
By the numbers
- Total saved in the Rainy Day Fund: $8.3 million
- Total roads budget for 2014: $3.3 million
- Approved roads budget for 2015: $4 million
- If Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s proposal is approved this year, the 2015 budget for roads will be $5.5 million.