GARY — The Gary City Council approved a 2019 budget Tuesday night with the understanding the city’s finances will likely look significantly different months from now and a new budget will be crafted.
Five ordinances approved Tuesday cover the city’s spending in various departments and areas of city government. Many of the departments' budgets are largely or entirely unchanged from 2018 spending levels.
Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6, voted against each ordinance, according to video of the City Council meeting.
Per state statute, the city must present a budget by the state’s Nov. 1 deadline.
The city's total General Fund budget approved Tuesday night totaled $95.3 million, according to a city spokesperson.
The mayor has previously said budgeting at or near 2018 levels helps the city maximize the levy until the city has a better grasp on its true fiscal condition.
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After that deadline, the administration’s “financial recovery plan,” that includes office consolidation and other cuts, will come into play.
The city has been conservative in the work done thus far and the city will continue to work diligently towards a balanced budget, Freeman-Wilson said at the council meeting.
Sparks-Wade voted no to the budget plan, saying she believes the city administration has not cut costs enough in recent years, but instead shifted dollars from restrictive funds such as the EMS fund to cover shortfalls.
"$8.2 million was used from EMS fund to plug holes in our General Fund, to take care of salaries and expenses, and whatnot, and this council was not aware of it. And regardless of what dialogue is going forth, misappropriation is misappropriation. This body is not here just for help, it’s a checks and balances,” she said.
The latest cash flow analysis shows the city will be broke by Oct. 31. The lack of cash on hand prompted the council to approve a plan to borrow up to $40 million for a sale/leaseback arrangement on its public safety building.
Consolidation of government offices and other cuts are also in the works to combat the city’s multimillion structural deficit.