City Council members begin their review of Mayor Tom Henry’s proposed budget this week, and the dynamics will very likely be much different from last year’s budget meetings.
Democrat Geoff Paddock and Republican Russ Jehl will be taking part in their first city budget review, while Republican John Crawford is returning after four years. In addition, Republican Councilman Mitch Harper has announced he is running for mayor in 2015.
Last year, Harper and former Councilwoman Liz Brown asked many of the questions, some rightly pointed but some unnecessarily harsh and accusatory. Crawford has a history of more diplomatically and selectively questioning spending items.
Even before Henry submitted his 2013 proposal – which includes a property tax increase of 5.7 percent – Harper, Crawford and Jehl announced they would oppose any tax increase. They urged Henry to use city reserves and the Legacy Fund, if necessary, to balance the budget. Henry has said he doesn’t want the $75 million to $80 million Legacy Fund used for operating expenses.
For several years, Republican council members have questioned the overall budgets of Democratic mayors, but few specific cuts have been approved.
After its regular meeting Tuesday, the council will review budgets of the two largest departments, police and fire. On Wednesday, the budget of the third- largest department – Parks and Recreation – will be on the table, and council members will quite likely discuss the possibility of a $10-per-household fee to finance the replacement of dead and dying trees afflicted with the emerald ash borer.
Budget meetings will continue Thursday with a review of development departments, and more meetings are scheduled over the next two weeks.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will meet face to face Wednesday in the first of three scheduled presidential debates. Jim Lehrer of PBS will moderate the debate, which will be broadcast on numerous TV networks from the University of Denver from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The Huntertown Town Council is scheduled to meet tonight. On the agenda is a discussion of sewer and water rates.
In May, the council approved paying H.J. Umbaugh and Associates about $60,000 to complete studies of the town’s sewer and water rates to see whether those rates should be increased. Town officials will be sharing the preliminary results of those studies.
Huntertown officials are working to end a contract with Fort Wayne City Utilities for sewer service and want to build their own $11.2 million wastewater treatment plant. But the Indiana Department of Environmental Management preliminarily rejected their plan.
Huntertown is also constructing a new $1.8 million drinking water filtration plant on Carroll Road near Lima Road. The plant is part of a larger $4.5 million project to improve the town’s water system.
The Indiana General Assembly’s child custody and support advisory committee meets Tuesday to discuss legislation approved last year. The bill, lowering the child support cutoff age from 21 to 19, caught many by surprise.
The law, which went into effect July 1, lowers the age of emancipation from 21 to 19, with an exemption for support of education costs. It drew little attention in the legislative session, drowned out by battles over right-to-work and education bills.
Some have suggested the law violates a provision of the Indiana Constitution prohibiting ex post facto laws or laws altering existing contracts.