Richmond Common Council passed a $60 million budget for 2024, but three council members voted against it.
Ron Oler, Jeff Cappa and Larry Parker said last year that they would not vote for another budget that does not have its expenditures matching the city’s income, and all three lived up to their words during the 6-3 vote. After the overall budget ’s approval, council unanimously passed five salary ordinances, setting compensation for elected officials, nonunion employees, the police department, the fire department and Richmond Sanitary District.
The city used American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fully fund this year’s budget. For 2024, ARPA, Redevelopment Commission and opioid settlement money is used to cover the budget.
“Last year, I stated in council that if we did not have a balanced budget I would not be voting for the budget this year,” Cappa said before his vote. “The reason for me voting no tonight is that we do not have a balanced budget; we do have a funded budget, but we do not have a balanced budget. And I don’t feel that the city of Richmond can continue on the pace that we are right now for the future of the city, so I’ll be voting no.”
Similarly, Parker explained it’s not sustainable for the city to continue passing budgets that are not sustainable.
Oler, who is the Republican mayoral candidate running against Mayor Dave Snow in the general election, said the budget is about $500,000 from being balanced.
“We can’t continue down this path,” Oler said after the meeting. “We have to make changes.”
Oler said cuts could be made to balance the budget.
“It’s the same thing you do at home,” he said. “You don’t buy certain things.”
Council has the authority as the city’s fiscal entity to reduce the budget presented by the administration.
Before the budget vote, Oler moved that council remove more than $1.1 million in ARPA money from the budget appropriation. He had no quarrel with using ARPA money to pay police and fire overtime; however, he opposed appropriating money for infrastructure and development projects and capital outlays.
Oler said next year’s administration should come to council with specific appropriation requests, so that council and the public know how the money is being spent.
“How these dollars are spent on infrastructure and development, I think it is our responsibility to ensure that they are spent wisely and spent in a way that the public knows,” Oler said.
Council voted 9-0 to pull that ARPA money from the budget appropriation.
Council member Jane Bumbalough said she voted in favor of the budget only because of that change.
Another mayoral contender, David Carpenter, who’s running as an independent candidate, was the only member of the public to speak during the budget’s public hearing. He asked several questions before saying he was opposed to the budget ordinance.
Carpenter asked about budget line items, such as taxi regulation, that do not include dollar amounts and was told there had been no 2024 budget request for those items. He asked how many laws that could generate revenue the city does not enforce and was informed the city’s general approach is to enforce its ordinances.
Carpenter also asked why the salary ordinance for non-union employees shows ranges for each position, rather than a specific salary. The city uses the ranges for the general appropriation because if an employee earning a wage toward the range’s top leaves the city, a new employee can be hired at a lower wage within the range.
The Indiana Senate considered a bill that would enable Indiana Main Street communities to receive Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grants up to $500,000 for Heritage Commerce Districts. Carpenter asked why that was not included in the budget, but the bill was not advanced from committee and the program is not yet available.
Finally, Carpenter asked if the budget included money to assist business owners impacted when Phase 2 of the Loop project is constructed. He was told that would involve the businesses receiving grants.
A version of this article appeared in the October 11 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.