Evansville Administration, Council Member Beefs Over Budget

There’s a lot to digest for Evansville city leaders building a $370 million budget for next year and the city’s cash is under a microscope for the next month.

It’s that time of year again, where most Evansville officials will tell you disagreement is normal when it comes to building a budget. It is no different this year. What is though, is some say there’s another factor at play.

The bottom line is drawing a divide between the administration and one council member.

Buried deep in blue books, between hundreds of pages and even more numbers lies the answer to Evansville’s finances for 2018. Getting there is easier said than done.

Jonathan Weaver (D – At-Large) is worried about the Mayor’s budget proposal unveiled last week, and how many cuts council will have to make before October 9 when council votes.

“We are in,” Weaver pauses, “I don’t want to say dire straits, but we need to be told the truth of what’s going on with how much money is available.”

Weaver doesn’t feel the $371 million budget presented to council is balanced. That is about $37 million more than the budget council passed last year. Deputy Mayor, Steve Schaefer feels the proposal is right in line.

“There’s a surplus when you do the combined budget or just general fund budget,” Schaefer says, “so on paper it’s a balanced budget and in reality, we think it’s a balanced budget.”

Out of all the items in his budget book, Weaver points to one, the fire department overtime budget, as an example of what he believes is the administration shorting the truth from council and Chief Mike Connelly.

The Mayor’s proposal includes about $160,000 for fire overtime. Weaver says Connelly asked for $360,000 more. Schaefer says those figures are typical every year.

“He should know that departments, toward the end of the year, have money in different line items and they transfer to cover expenses,” says Schaefer.

“Things are so tight right now, we want the actual numbers,” Weaver adds.

Schaefer questions Weaver’s motives, and believes his concern is politically-driven. “It happens every year, and for somebody that’s been on council as long as he has, it tells you the campaigning has started a little earlier than normal.”

It has been reported Weaver is interested in running for Mayor in the future, but he declined to elaborate on his plans. “I’m concentrating on today,” he says, “I have not made a decision.”

As of now, Weaver says he plans to run for council in the 2019 election.

Politics aside, Weaver, Schaefer, and dozens of others will have to see eye-to-eye at some point to keep Evansville’s wheels turning.

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