Richmond plans to use more than a million dollars in redevelopment, opioid settlement and American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund its 2024 budget.
On Aug. 28 and 29, Richmond Common Council members received proposed budget reports from Mayor Dave Snow, Controller Emily Palmer and the city’s department heads. Snow said the budget proposal is workable and funded.
An expected 8.3% increase in health insurance costs totaling about $700,000 coupled with an expected $600,000 shortfall in property tax revenue creates a challenging budget process, Snow said. Palmer told council members the budget does not include 2024 raises for nonunion city employees. Union employees will receive their negotiated raises.
Snow explained that the city budgets for the “worst-case scenario,” then attempts to spend less than budgeted.
Departments were asked to reduce their expenditures from their 2023 totals. Snow said the city scrutinized departmental budgets and diligently worked to present a funded budget that enables the city to deliver services while making the city “clean, safe and welcoming for all who call Richmond home.”
Palmer told council members the city plans to use $386,919 in ARPA money to pay for police and fire overtime. In addition, $437,399 in opioid settlement payments and Redevelopment Commission funds are planned to help fund public safety.
The city planned to use about $1.5 million in ARPA money in the 2023 budget for the overtime.
Richmond Police Department’s budget includes $400,000 for overtime, and Richmond Fire Department’s has $900,000. Both chiefs said that because of staffing shortages and training programs they would struggle to limit their overtime to meet those figures.
RPD Chief Mike Britt told council members his agency had been 14 officers short, but six new officers have recently been hired. Three began Aug. 28 at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and the other three will begin their academy program in January. It will be about a year before those officers are patrolling on their own. Britt said three other officers are out because of long-term injuries.
The police budget also includes $172,000 for equipment, including 10 ballistic vests, and $140,000 that would purchase three new patrol vehicles.
RFD also has protective vests in its trucks and ambulances, and it needs to replace 21 to establish a replacement schedule. Chief Tim Brown also said the budget includes $350,000 for a new ambulance and $15,000 to replace portable radios.
The two-year, $2 million grant that has funded RFD’s paramedicine program ends May 30, 2024, so Brown said the department is pursuing other grants and funding streams to extend the program. The department is also prepared to cover some of the cost from its emergency medical services proceeds.
T.L. Bosell, the city’s streets superintendent, told council members his department plans to purchase two new leaf machines, at about $70,000 each; a paint machine; a dump truck; a hot patcher and, if possible, a used small paver.
The parks and recreation department requests the hiring of two maintenance laborers, according to Superintendent Denise Retz. That would put the department at 20 full-time employees, which Retz termed the “sweet spot.”
“That’s where we’d like to stay,” she said.
The department would reduce its part-time workforce to 10, saving $16,000, and drop its contractual line item $20,000 to help pay for the full-time spots. Retz said those savings would give the department two full-time workers for just an additional $4,000.
Richmond Sanitation District has budgeted $860,000 for capital expenditures. About $500,000 of that is earmarked for two new trucks, one as part of its commercial fleet and one to serve as a recycling backup. The district is pursuing 50-50 matching grants to help with the purchases.
Director Pat Smoker was asked about the remaining life for the New Paris Landfill. He estimated 35 to 50 years remain at current use levels. He said the district continues to explore ways to divert trash from the landfill. Smoker said national estimates are that 50% of trash could be diverted away from landfills, and he said a local landfill provides residents significant savings on trash service.
In the code enforcement budget, $200,000 is earmarked for demolition of buildings.
The budget will formally be presented to council during its Sept. 18 meeting, with a public hearing expected during the Oct. 2 meeting.
A version of this article appeared in the September 6 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.