Gary ap­proves ’19 bud­get, but it may be re­viewed

Com­mon Coun­cil votes to ap­prove five or­di­nances

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Gre­gory Te­jeda Post-Tri­bune

The Gary Com­mon Coun­cil gave its ap­proval Tues­day to a city bud­get for 2019, even though Mayor Karen Free­manWil­son said the ap­proved spend­ing lev­els for city govern­ment ap­proved will not be the ac­tual amounts of money that city pro­grams will have avail­able to them.

The Com­mon Coun­cil voted to ap­prove five or­di­nances that, when put to­gether, com­pose the spend­ing plan for 2019.

One or­di­nance de­tails ex­penses for city pro­grams, while an­other pro­vides the salaries for city work­ers. Two other or­di­nances out­line the ex­penses and salaries for the Gary/Chicago In­ter­na­tional Air­port, while a fifth or­di­nance con­sists of the ex­penses and salaries for the Gary Pub­lic Transportation Corp. that op­er­ates the city bus sys­tem.

All of the or­di­nances set spend­ing lev­els sim­i­lar to what the city agen­cies and pro­grams had for 2018, with slight adap­ta­tions to the tax levy to let the city claim as much rev­enue as pos­si­ble within the con­straints of In­di­ana tax cap laws.

But Free­man-Wil­son said she re­al­izes Gary will not have that much money ac­tu­ally avail­able to it.

She said her staff is still putting to­gether an ac­tual spend­ing plan that will im­pose cuts across all of Gary govern­ment.

That plan should be ready for coun­cil re­view by Novem­ber. But be­cause In­di­ana law re­quires mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments across the state to file copies of their bud­gets for the up­com­ing year by the end of Oc­to­ber, the vote was taken Tues­day on a bud­get base for next year.

Most coun­cil mem­bers voted for the bud­get plan. Coun­cil mem­ber Carolyn Rogers, D-4th, voted against the or­di­nances re­lated to the city pro­grams and salaries, while coun­cil mem­ber LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th, was solidly op­posed.

She voted “no” on all five or­di­nances.

Sparks-Wade said she is both­ered by the idea of try­ing to max­i­mize the tax levies, say­ing she thinks it vi­o­lates the spirit of In­di­ana law, which in­tends to limit the size of tax hikes in any given year.

“That’s tax­payer money,” she said. “Per­haps that’s money we shouldn’t be get­ting.”

Sparks-Wade is the coun­cil mem­ber who has been most vo­cal about a short­fall in a city fund for emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices due to trans­fers of funds to other parts of the Gary bud­get, and she said she thinks that is ev­i­dence that city of­fi­cials don’t fully have con­trol of the money they’re al­ready over­see­ing.

Sparks-Wade said she thinks city of­fi­cials should be open about ad­mit­ting what spend­ing lev­els will be, rather than wait­ing un­til Novem­ber.

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Brewer, how­ever, said he could back ap­prov­ing a bud­get now, say­ing he saw ev­i­dence city of­fi­cials were try­ing to keep a han­dle on their spend­ing.

Free­man-Wil­son said it will be up to the coun­cil to be care­ful about watch­ing over city spend­ing.

She said once a fi­nal plan is put in place next month, there will have to be “weekly check­ups” on how money is spent to en­sure pro­grams don’t go over what is ac­tu­ally avail­able.

And while the mayor said some pro­grams are in the works that could help pro­vide more money for Gary govern­ment to cover ex­penses, she said, “We don’t want to count on any­thing un­til we have a sure deal.”

Gre­gory Te­jeda is a free­lance re­porter for the Post-Tri­bune.


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