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Financial emergency sparks cuts in Connersville

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Police officers in Connersville will reduce the amount of gas they use and lose some training opportunities as part of an effort to close a budget shortfall that has forced city leaders to declare a financial emergency.

The Board of Works and Safety declared the emergency last week after revenue estimates showed the city wouldn't be able to meet its payroll and claims as of May 1, the News-Examiner reported.

Clerk-Treasurer Julie Greeson estimates the city's general fund will have less than $15,000 in the bank as of May 1, yet its monthly payroll and claims typically exceed $700,000.

"After May 1, we won't have any money to pay anybody," Mayor Leonard Urban said.

Urban said the city of 13,335 people located 55 miles east of Indianapolis has lost more than $3 million in revenue since he took office in 2008. He attributes part of that to the loss of about $100 million in assessed value with the closure of a Visteon plant and the statewide property tax caps that took effect in 2009.

"I knew this was coming, but I never dreamed it would come upon us this quick," Urban told city leaders. "We've been watching our budget, we've been not spending, we've been trying to be careful. ... We've done everything we know to save money, but when you get these kinds of losses and you still have the same expenses, this is where we are."

The city hopes to make up $300,000 before its June tax draw by making sweeping cuts and limiting spending to fixing city vehicles that might break down. It also may borrow from another fund.

Those austerity steps will affect the police department, where officers will lose their clothing allowance and outside training opportunities for the foreseeable future. Overtime will be limited, and Chief David Counceller said he may have to reduce the number of officers working a shift during peak vacation times.

The department also will instruct officers not to leave their vehicles idling and to park and run radar at times while on patrol.

"We found that if we took away the clothing allowance for everybody, we save $100,000," Urban said. "If we take away all the overtime, just wipe it out, we can save $150,000, and we think if we cut the consumption of diesel fuel and gas, I'm hoping by a third, we can make it to where we need to be in June."

Counceller said the cuts shouldn't affect residents, but he acknowledged he's concerned about manpower when vacation time hits.

"It could come down to working three men on a shift when we usually run four to five," he said.

He said he plans to use the department's two part-time officers to offset overtime costs. And he and the assistant chief might take turns on patrol.

"I might even have a detective put on a uniform and go out and cover a shift," he said.

He asked for residents' understanding if the police response is slower than normal.

"If you do call, and we're not right there, just give a little time because we're short-handed," Counceller said.

Counceller said he expects the cuts to remain in effect through December.

"This year is going to be pretty rough," he said.

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  • Leadership Void
    I'm a Fishers resident but a native of Connersville. There is no excuse for what has led to this financial state of emergency. For the past few years, the city hid its head in the sand and refused to make necessary cuts even as industries left the city. Companies such as Visteon, HH Robertson, Crown, National Metal and others closed or moved elsewhere and the population continued to dwindle but the city did little to curb expenses. There have been a few leaders, including a couple of past mayors, who tried to make a positive change but were met with fierce opposition from those guarding the status quo. As a past GOP party chairman and elected official from Connersville, it saddens me to witness the decline of a once great community. The city will not even support its own struggling businesses. Connersville officials buy everything from trophies for sports programs to carpet for offices from outside businesses instead of the local providers. Connersville city leaders squandered a portion of several million dollars in state incentive money on pleasure. An Indianapolis Star article brought to light some of the wastefulness and poor management of tax dollars. Hopefully, the citizens of Connersville will make a stand for good government and demand better leadership so the city may thrive once again.
  • They did not know till now?
    How did they not know they were short of funds much before now? Bad management, I'd say.
  • Benefits
    It's way past time to cut the benefit packages for all municipal employees. The health insurance package is far too generous, there is too much vacation, holiday and sick time allowed. These are all very expensive and require the city to be over-staffed to compensate for the generous benefits. If the benefits are adjusted to become reasonable, then you will find that staffing can be reduced greatly in all areas. Employees should not complain. They would still be receiving potentially more generous pay and benefits even after they are reduced. Government has got to stop giving themselves the best of everything.
  • how dumb is this city manager
    One might ask how an emergency happens so suddenly, mismanagement, incompetency. How can a city not know its balance and that it is running out of solvency. The only way to stem the gap is to do a bond issue or borrow to cover salaries and costs. Perhaps they should have been attracting businesses, industry, etc. to fill their dwindling tax gap.

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