Centerville’s finances are generally on solid footing and town officials should consider transferring money to their Rainy Day Fund and/or plan for one-time purchases because reserves are high, an accountant said.

Upon council’s request, Paige Sansone of Indianapolis-based Baker Tilly municipal advisers provided a 41-page comprehensive financial plan that analyzed various town funds and showed opportunities and challenges.

Sansone said she’s usually providing doom and gloom to towns in these reports, but that wasn’t Centerville’s situation.

One sobering item: Centerville is estimated to collect about $567,000 in property taxes this year. Because of circuit breaker tax credits, that’s about $300,000 lower (34%) than what’s levied. By 2026, Centerville’s circuit breaker loss could be close to 40%.

Sansone called that loss extremely high compared to other Indiana municipalities. Wayne County overall returned $26.1 million to taxpayers via credits.

That’s good for taxpayers, but not good for taxing units, she said, and it’s very difficult to influence state lawmakers to send more money to local units.

Centerville’s net assessed value has increased by 13% since 2019, with a big jump between 2022 and 2023, so additional growth in housing or industry could offset tax credits’ impact.

On the positive side, Centerville’s cash balances for major operating funds are well above the recommended 15 to 50 percent targeted reserve.

Sansone recommends finding ways to spend down the funds but keep about a six-month reserve. The town could spend about $638,000 to get to that level.

Centerville ended 2022 with more than $1 million in its general fund, or a 104% cash reserve. She said the town has historically had balanced budgets or underspent in some cases.

She sees an opportunity to think about five- and 10-year capital plans and consider making one-time purchases of vehicles or equipment. She advised against using reserves for unsustainable recurring costs such as raises or adding personnel.

Sansone recommended the council consider transferring money annually to the Rainy Day Fund because it’s currently low at $45,000. Once money is in Rainy Day, council can transfer it to any other needy fund or OK additional appropriations.

In other business

  • Centerville is applying for state funds to pave Willow Drive from Poplar to the beginning of Chestnut Way and Mattie Harris Road from Chestnut Way to Elm Street. If successful, Centerville would owe 25% (estimated $36,000).
  • Because of hot weather, trash pickup begins at 6 a.m., and customers must have containers out then.
  • Town employees stepped up vehicle code enforcement. If visible from streets or alleys, inoperable autos not moved for more than 20 days, even if on private property and covered, are considered abandoned. They may be tagged and then towed in 72 hours.

    Code enforcement and police try to ask owners how much time they need to get vehicles running, sometimes offering more days if they’re trying to resolve the issue.

    Those who park on streets also are encouraged to move their vehicle every couple of days to avoid violations.
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A version of this article appeared in the July 26 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.