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With Budget Deadline Looming, Council Crunches Numbers

The Evansville City Council will vote Monday on next year's proposed budget. Until then, council members are working to determine what available money should go where.

The Evansville City Council has until November 1st to finalize next year's budget but hope to have it finalized by Monday. Until then, council members are working to determine what available money should go where.

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Buried in numbers and figures, financial statements and balance sheets, City Councilman John Friend budgets his time to work on the proposed city budget.

"It takes my breath away," said Councilman John Friend (D-5th Ward). "I break out a lot of bottles of Pepto Bismol when I start thinking about these numbers. It's our duty to assure that those services, infrastructure and safety -- that's the number one thing -- safety is maintained."

Funding that maintenance is another matter entirely. Ahead of Monday's vote on the budget, Friend, the Council's Finance Chairman, proposes a slew of funding reductions. While he supports the concept of the project, Councilman Friend also recommended the removal of $1.5 million to fund the construction of infrastructure for Roberts Park.

"We have 65 [park facilities] as we speak," said Councilman Friend. "We're adding more to it which means you're going to dilute the base on maintenance funding."

Councilman Friend also recommends reducing the funding to the Parks and Recreation Departments, Water Utility and Sewer Utility. Councilman Friend cites decreasing revenues and increased costs. Friend also says the projected revenues in the proposed budget is typically overstated while the projected expenditures are typically understated.

All in all, Councilman Friend recommends up to $6 million worth of funding reductions. But there is at least one line item Councilman Friend recommends be increased. Councilman Friend wants to earmark $25,000 to pay for a new assistant for Council Attorney Scott Danks. Officials say the City Council's previous attorney did not have an assistant.

"I'm hearing the council members have really been asking a lot out of Mr. Dank's office," said Councilman Friend. "The bottom line is [city council members] have really been using [Danks'] staff big time."

Councilman Friend says it's important to note these are not funding cuts per se. It's just a funding reduction of what was proposed in next year's budget.

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Here's a breakdown of the recommended changes.

Councilman Friend says the general fund needs to be reduced by $2 million because he believes there will be decreased revenues.

Friend also recommends reducing the budget request of the Parks Department, Water Utility and Sewer Utility by $500,000 apiece.

Friend also forecasts the Riverboat Fund will be $2 million less than predicted as well as the Local Income Tax fund being $500,000 less than predicted.

Friend says the Council will also discuss reducing the salaries of the Evansville Fire Department's Chief and Assistant Chief. The reason being, Friend says, is to close the pay gap with the rank and file firefighters. Friend believes this will help improve morale.


 

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