By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
The New Albany City Council approved the more than $20 million general fund budget for 2013 by a 6-2 vote Monday.
Included in the budget is a 2 percent pay raise for most city employees and the shifting of $600,000 in 911 dispatch costs to the Economic Development Income Tax account.
Those changes in the budget from 2012 to 2013 were the primary reasons Councilman Bob Caesar said he voted against the financial plan.
The pay raises are primarily for non bargaining employees, who haven’t received a salary increase in four years though some have garnered one-time bonuses in the past.
Police and fire departments aren’t included in the pay increases, but public safety workers receive an annual 1 percent longevity raise through their union contracts with the city.
Caesar said he disagreed with the flat pay raise structure.
“I really believe that they all deserve it, but I think it would have been much better to have given the raises based on job performance,” he said Tuesday.
Caesar said moving the 911 budget to the EDIT account and away from the general fund could cost the city money in the future.
He said cities aren’t required to have a 911 center, only the county is, and that the state could ultimately remove funds it allots to New Albany for emergency dispatch if the funds aren’t used for the service.
Shane Gibson, an attorney for Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration, said in September the state was considering automatically deducting 911 funding amounts from local property tax revenue to foot the operation.
The move could reduce the city’s levy increase because New Albany’s total revenue would be lowered.
Caesar said he still supports merging the city and county dispatch centers — a move which failed to pass the council last year. Gahan voted against the merger as a member of that council.
Caesar said he would sponsor another ordinance to combine the city and county 911 operations, but doesn’t believe there’s enough support on the council.
Council President Diane McCartin-Benedetti was the other member to vote against the budget. Attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful as of press time Tuesday.
Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede was absent from Monday’s meeting.
The budget has been praised by other members of the council including Councilman Dan Coffey. The four-term councilman recently labeled the 2013 budget “the best” he’s been presented with since being elected.
Bicentennial funding reduced, passed
The council voted to appropriate $50,000 for events and programs planned by the New Albany Bicentennial Commission.
The amount was reduced from $85,000 before being approved on final reading.
Caesar is a member of the bicentennial commission, and said the money will be used to offset expenses such as deposits for event venues. He said he has no issue with the appropriation being lowered to $50,000.
“The amount is more than adequate to cover our needs,” Caesar said.
The commission’s goal is to pay back at least the majority of the money through purchase proceeds from the official bicentennial book “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge.”
Town Clock Church tabled
The final reading for a $75,000 appropriation to benefit the restoration of the historic Town Clock Church was tabled Monday.
The sponsor of the measure, Councilman John Gonder, said Tuesday the appropriation was delayed so there could be more research on possibly obtaining a preservation easement on the property.
There’s also interest in wording the ordinance as a challenge grant to entice more organizations to join in the fundraising drive, Gonder said.
Repairing the historic church and installing a replica of the steeple that once stood atop the building has been estimated at $403,500. Several organizations including the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County have pledged their support for the project, as the church was a connection on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War era.
Gonder said he didn’t object to tabling the appropriation, but that he intends to introduce it for a final reading during the council’s next meeting which is at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.