Portage council cuts HR, IT spending in '14 budget

2013-10-02T18:30:00Z 2013-10-02T23:15:06Z Portage council cuts HR, IT spending in '14 budgetJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The City Council this week approved the 2014 budget, but not without cutting the budget line for the city's human resources consultant and slashing funding for the city's information technology department.

The council also approved giving every full-time employee a one-time stipend of $500, payable on the first paycheck of 2014. While some employees received raises because of health insurance changes, most have not for several years. No across-the-board salary increase was built into the 2014 budget.

At a budget committee meeting prior to the council's regular meeting Tuesday, Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham said the city's general fund deficit sat at $230,000 and the deficit for the employee medical benefits fund was about $1 million.

Stidham suggested the council take $445,000 from the economic development income tax fund earmarked for equipment and use it to pay for employee health care to help close the gap.

For the general fund, the council agreed to raise the estimated tax draw on which the budget is based from 90 percent to 91 percent, giving the general fund a $94,000 boost.

Council President Sue Lynch suggested reducing the IT budget from $135,000 to $75,000. The council agreed despite objections from Mayor James Snyder, who said the council had "short-term memory" of the state of the city's IT system when he took office and the need to update and maintain the system.

The council also agreed to eliminate the budget line item for the city's human relations consultant, Mitch Ripley. That cut $26,400 from the general fund. Ripley is also paid through the city's utility services department.

Councilman John Cannon objected to the HR funding cut, saying the city has more than 300 employees and needs an HR consultant.

Lynch said she believes the duties handled by Ripley for the city can be handled by department superintendents and the clerk-treasurer's office.

"The administration is looking at all options and input. We believe human resources is essential in running a city and is the job of the executive of the city not the clerk treasurer," Snyder said Wednesday.

"Computers and IT are necessary for people applying for a building permit to providing care to a senior citizen who needs an ambulance. The political cuts from the Democrats on the council are not only unwise, but put the city at serious risk financially and in the area of safety," he said.

In addition, the council agreed to ask the utility department for an additional $40,000 in its payment in lieu of taxes to help boost the general fund revenue and upped the figures in anticipated ambulance collections by $25,000.

Stidham said the 2014 appropriation from the City Hall budget for excess liability insurance could be reduced by $50,000.


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