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INDIANA: Borough council approves budget with no tax increase

by on December 04, 2013 11:00 AM

Indiana Borough council adopted the 2014 budget on Tuesday, holding the line on taxes and providing for a slight spending increase.

Council adopted the budget on a 7-1 vote, with Councilman Gerald Smith dissenting. Smith said he was dissatisfied with the budget because it isn’t forward-looking and has no clear plan for ensuring that Indiana remains a great place for families.

“Our population of families is shrinking, so everything we do should be with an eye to letting our taxpayers know that this council is concerned about this fact and is being proactive about attracting and retaining residents. This budget is simply a plan for the status quo,” he said.

But as it is, the $6.06 million spending plan is an increase of about 0.5 percent over last year. Expenses are exceeding projected revenues by roughly $421,000, and officials plan to draw from the borough’s general fund balance to cover the difference.

A bit less than half of the general budget, around $2.68 million, is accounted for by the police department, which expects to see its expenses rise nearly 4 percent, mostly on wage and salary increases and growing health insurance costs.

The street department is consuming the next-largest chunk of the budget. Its spending is increasing by almost 5.5 percent to $905,545. Again, the increase is mostly due to greater health insurance costs.

The budget anticipates a restructuring in Indiana’s code enforcement office, which council began implementing Tuesday night. Under the restructuring, council is carving out the office’s community planning duties and placing them in a separate office with its own director and staff.

Borough manager Bill Sutton said the move streamlines borough operations and resolves a conflict that had existed by having one person in charge of both code enforcement and planning.

He said that with the chief code enforcement officer acting as the planner, the borough had the person who, on one hand, was supposed to be enforcing the codes developers must follow trying, on the other hand, to assist those developers in their projects.

Separating the responsibilities will allow the borough to offer a better service, Sutton said.

To that end, council named a temporary planner last night. Dana Turgeon, who currently works as a code enforcement officer, eventually will take over as planning director once the office is formally established.

Also, council promoted Otto Peterson as the code enforcement director. Peterson had been serving in that role on an interim basis following the resignation of Dave Kirk earlier this year.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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