In order to achieve a balanced budget, the City of New Buffalo’s proposed draft budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year reflects a cutback in City spending.
The proposed budget was revealed to City councilmembers at a Special Meeting Thursday, May 11. As explained by City Treasurer/ Human Resources Director Kate Vyskocil, changes have been made to achieve a year-end surplus, so that the City could start building up its General Fund.
“That is the goal,” she said.
One significant change that’s being proposed is the employee health care contribution, which was increased from 10 percent to 20 percent, resulting in the City paying 80 percent instead of 90 percent. Vyskocil said health insurance went up almost 8 percent. Another proposed change included giving non-union and part-time employees a 3 percent salary increase.
Speaking on health care, City Manager Dave Richards said that, if necessary, they will go out to bid and look for other plans before their current one expires. He did say the City had other options they could consider before it expires in terms of health care coverage, such as moving employees onto their spouse’s coverage.
Also among the proposed draft budget’s significant changes was decreasing part-time police personnel costs. Currently, the police department employs six full-time people, two part-timers and one seasonal person.
Richards mentioned that he wanted to confirm that it costs the City $843.50 for them to provide “manpower” at the ball games at New Buffalo High School wasn’t a “significant cost.” He said that the City had recently received a “great deal of criticism,” as it was believed that the school reimburse the City for their patrolman “spending time at ball games.” Police Chief Larry Pitchford said he felt that, due to the climate across the country, he felt it necessary to have someone patrolling the games. Most of the patrolmen, he said, were reserve officers. He did say that there has been some talk about having a school resource officer present at the New Buffalo Area Schools, which would take care of the funding for a patrolman at the games and is being implemented at schools across the country.
Also regarding the police department, Pitchford confirmed that, due to cost-cutting, there won’t be any boat patrol this year; however, a boat and equipment will still be docked in the water in case of an emergency.
Moving on to the Parks Department, Vyskocil said the City normally gives $125,000 annually to the Parks Fund from its General Fund; however, they eventually wished to see the Park Fund support itself from its revenue, so the City will no longer have to contribute to it. To achieve this, Vyskocil said they’re proposing increasing the beach parking fees from $10 to $12. In addition, she added that the City annually contributes around $35,000 from the Park Fund to the Dredging Fund as a “matching amount in contributions;” however, this amount is being taken out of the Parks Improvement Fund so it wasn’t all being taken out of the General Fund.
Vyskocil said they’ve given the Streets Department diagnostic equipment for vehicle repair; however, the City has allocated $5,000 instead of the usual $10,000 to clean up the garage grounds.
Other additional changes include police car equipment expenses coming out of drug forfeiture money instead of the General Fund, as well as the lease for the two police cars, which costs $21,000 annually, to come out of the equipment purchase fund. Redesigning the City’s website will be put on hold until next fiscal year.
Richards added that they are proposing to cut lifeguard hours at the beach back to Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some Mondays. He said that risk management people have visited the City and suggested signage and equipment that could be in place before the reduction in hours. Several beach communities throughout the state have no lifeguards, and Richards said that there was a “great deal of risk” the City has accepted with having lifeguards. In the future, he planned on a workshop and presentation by risk management people addressing the issue of having lifeguards for next year.