Portage ends year more financially sound than expected

2013-01-02T21:30:00Z 2013-01-03T10:30:07Z Portage ends year more financially sound than expectedJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The city of Portage ended 2012 in the black in all but one account.

It wasn't what officials expected.

"I've been giving you doom and gloom all year. This is the one time I can say something positive," Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham said Wednesday at the City Council meeting.

Portage's general fund ended up with a positive balance of slightly more than $627,000 in 2012.

"There were a lot of cuts made this year," Stidham said, adding it was particularly difficult since the city entered 2012 with some $500,000 in outstanding bills. "This is especially noteworthy as we are not carrying forward any 2012 bills into 2013 from the general fund."

The city cut costs by providing early retirement buyouts to more than a dozen employees and are reducing other employees through attrition.

The general fund balance is also significant because the city suffered a $612,200 shortfall in property tax revenue.

Stidham said the only carryover bill into 2013 is about $25,000 for landfill fees to be paid from the EDIT fund.

The employee medical benefit fund also ended the year with a $311,723 cushion. That was due, in part,  because the city received an influx of more than $2.1 million from EDIT, riverboat, cable TV and redevelopment commission funds to finance employee health claims.

The local road, street and park funds each had positive balances of about $150,000.

Stidham said ending the year in the black is a good start. However, he added there is a need to build the funds to have cash cushion. He said the difficult choices made in 2012 to reduce costs will continue into 2013.

"Unfortunately, cost increases continue to outpace our revenue increases. As we maximize cost savings through greater efficiency, we will need to begin to look at more dramatic cost savings measures to maintain a balanced budget in the coming year," Stidham said.

The only fund ending the year in the red was the motor vehicle highway fund which has an approximate $185,000 deficit. Stidham said the fund continues to be "distressed" because of reduced property tax revenue due to tax caps and reduced gas tax revenue due to increased fuel efficiency.

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About Portage

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6070 W. Central Ave. Portage, IN 46368
(219) 762-5425

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2693 Irving Street Portage, IN 46368
(219) 762-3122

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