E.C. officials squeezing 2013 budget

2012-09-16T19:10:00Z 2012-09-16T20:31:08Z E.C. officials squeezing 2013 budgetBy Steve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 16, 2012 7:10 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | Pay cuts and staff reductions in the offices of both the city clerk and city court were discussed recently as the East Chicago City Council moved toward a final 2013 budget.

The budget will be made public later this month.

Squeezed by state-mandated property tax caps combined with a frozen tax levy — and facing projected low receipts of eligible taxes — officials have attempted to balance next year's books without relying on casino revenue.

City Clerk Mary Morris Leonard told the council's finance committee Thursday that she will be making do with three fewer staffers next year to realize a 15 percent reduction in her office's budget.

Twelve employees serve in two offices supporting the city court at the James Knight Public Safety Facility and for administrative duties at City Hall, with a combined 2013 cost of $665,938.

That's a reduction of $90,775 from the clerk's 2012 budget, said City Controller Kimberly Anderson.

"I don't see where I can do any more cutting," Leonard said.

All 15 full-time and three part-time court workers will have their salaries reduced by 5 percent next year in what City Judge Sonya Morris characterized as a "bare-bones operation." But promised longevity pay for long-time staff will mean an increase in the court's budget.

The jump accounts for only $891 in the court's proposed 2013 expenses of $833,691, with $553,983 going toward salaries.

If approved as proposed, city court will join the East Chicago Public Library, with an estimated 2013 budget of $5.1 million, as the only city subdivisions not facing significant budget reductions next year.

"Our goal is to come in right around $25 million, and right now we're at $25.5 million," said council financial adviser Karl Cender. "So if departments can't find any more reductions, we may have to rely on gaming revenue for the difference."

Casino funds of $6 million were used to overcome this year's budget deficit, down from a peak of $13 million in 2010 and $8 million in 2011.

Officials from the School City of East Chicago, which is seeking nearly $75 million for 2013 operations, are invited to appear at the next finance committee workshop at noon Thursday in City Hall.

A public hearing on next year's budget is scheduled for Sept. 24, with final adoption planned for Oct. 22.

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