MUNSTER | The Munster Town Council met with department heads and town administrators recently to prepare for fiscal year 2013.
The work study session dissected the town’s 2012 expenses to-date with an eye to what can be added, saved or cut from the next year’s town budget.
The numbers still need to be totaled, but the discussions allowed council members, administrators and department heads to voice their concerns over financial challenges and indicate what projects and services are vital to the community.
Town Manager Tom DeGiulio presented raw budget numbers submitted by the town’s departments and projected revenue for 2013.
These are based on “conservative revenue estimates given to us by the state, the frozen tax levy and our locally generated revenues,” he said.
“Our budgets must be balanced within each fund. There are certain expenses that can properly be moved from one funding area to another,” DeGiulio said.
“The most important is service scope and level,” he said. “It is critical to look at long-term capital planning and a community’s strategic plan.”
Munster adopted a 20-year master plan in May 2011 that provides a map for the town in most long-term planning and capital spending guidelines.
“It is critical that we continue with our aggressive capital improvement programs,” DeGiulio told the Town Council, whose members also comprise the Munster Redevelopment Commission.
That commission controls the tax increment financing money that Munster receives back from the state in property taxes paid by businesses in the TIF district.
Development of The Lake Business Center at Calumet Avenue and Fran-Lin Parkway is an example of the use of TIF dollars for improvements.
“Our investment of $1.5 (million) to over $2 million of street resurfacing in residential and commercial areas ensures our community of a sound infrastructure,” DeGiulio said.
Munster already has spent millions of dollars separating sewers and adding storm sewers over the past 25 years. For most of those projects, Munster has leveraged local dollars with State Revolving Loan Funds, Hammond Sanitary District financing and other nonlocal revenue, he said.
Construction on the Schoon Ditch and Wicker Park sewer separation projects will be the next completed within the 12 to 18 months.
Among capital program projects for 2013 and 2014 are an aggressive resurfacing program, plans to rebuild the Northcote Bridge in 2013 and the Columbia Avenue Bridge in 2014, the last two phases of the Pennsy Greenway bike path, completion of the West Lakes bike path and the third phase of Community Park renovation.
While some funds, including the sewer and water funds, are doing well, the general fund “continues to be hurt the most with the frozen levy” because of increasing costs and limited local revenue, DeGiulio said. Property taxes and building fees are the largest sources of revenue for this fund.
Police and fire departments receive 100 percent of their operation costs from the general fund and represent the biggest general fund expenditure.