The Goshen City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the first reading of the 2016 budget. Changes to the budget that do not result in an overall increase in spending for the year can still be made before the next council meeting.
Eric Walsh, a certified public accountant who works with the city’s finances, presented an outline of Goshen’s current financial standing and predictions as to what the next year will bring. “Everyone really is striving for the one thing—making the best use of what revenues do come in,” he said.
Walsh explained that property tax caps, commonly known as “circuit breaker” caps, are of main concern right now to the city’s finances. This means that resident homeowners are only required to pay 1 percent of their property’s assessed worth in property taxes, and the loss in tax revenue is absorbed in part by the city.
Although circuit breaker caps have led to a decrease in revenue for the city of Goshen, Walsh is optimistic. “There has been some real fiscal responsibility from the city,” he said, and cited increasing property values as a positive change looking forward to 2016.
In the public hearing preceding the review of the 2016 budget, Glenn Null, a Goshen resident who regularly attends the council meetings, voiced his concern that the budget does not include any additions to the “rainy day” fund.
“I’m telling the city to pay attention,” Null said, referencing the city’s dependence on the rainy day fund in the past few years. “Put something there.”
As of now, the city has not allocated any money to that contingency fund for 2016.
The council also decided against giving a major salary boost to whomever serves as mayor in 2016. Councilman Everett Thomas proposed that the mayor’s pay be bumped from the sixth highest-paid position in the city to the second highest-paid, or a total of $88,010 per year. The two mayoral candidates, Jeremy Stutsman, a Democratic councilman, and Mary Cripe, a Republican who serves as city engineer, excused themselves from the meeting for the duration of this discussion.
“I think it’s a shame that we have five people who are paid more than the mayor,” Thomas said.
However, the proposal was not seconded by anyone on the council and did not proceed any further. Several council members expressed concern about the financial feasibility of such an increase. The mayoral salary will reflect only a 2 percent cost of living increase—to $82,602—a modest raise that the council members refused for themselves.
Councilman Edward Ahlersmeyer said that although the council is grateful for their pay, elected positions are ultimately volunteer. To reflect their commitment to serving the city, the council members voted six to one to maintain their 2015 salary in the oncoming year.
Other business from the meeting included a presentation from James Brenneman, president of Goshen College, on the college’s growing Latino and Hispanic community. He emphasized the continuing importance of immigrants to the success of the both the college and the city of Goshen.
The next council meeting will take place on October 27 for the second and final reading of the budget.