Budget woes create disagreement between mayor and council members

Budget woes in Elkhart took center stage at a hearing Tuesday night. Now, some members of the common council are voicing their disagreement with the budget presented by the mayor's office.

Some of the members on the council say that the employee furloughs currently in place are only temporary fixes and that what needs to be done is make additional cuts.

But, Mayor Dick Moore says that Elkhart has kept all of its departments open despite losing a lot of property tax revenue. Moore went on to say that additional cuts to the budget would put the city in what he calls a "state of regression."

Financial choices involving Elkhart cemeteries also came up at Tuesday's meeting.

Common council member Mary Olson, along with some other republican members, brought up that there had been complaints from residents about Grace Lawn Cemetery. They also pointed to overtime pay for cemetery employees as an example of unnecessary spending.

Yet, Moore said there is a very real need to be accommodating to families who want to schedule funerals on weekends or holidays.

"We do not choose the time of a funeral," Moore said. "I've had personal calls from people who have said to me, 'We know it is a holiday, but that is when we can get the family together.' To me, it is right thing to do."

Olson said that she respects funeral scheduling requests from Elkhart residents, but that employee shifts can be moved around to prevent overtime.

"To create overtime for over-burdened tax payers is just ridiculous," she said. "You adjust schedules, you think outside the box and anything can be accomplished."

The cemetery issue is just one of the examples of budgetary concerns, according to Olson. She said that city employee furloughs are a big point of disagreement between some council members and the mayor.

"They are a temporary fix," Olson said.

From Moore's perspective, it boils down to different mentalities when it comes to governing.

"A major problem is the basic philosophical differences between republicans and democrats," Moore said. "We've been elected with a democratic majority to manage city for two terms. So, people would expect us to govern based on our philosophies."

A third reading of the budget is scheduled for October 15. The council will approve, amend, or make additional cuts to the budget at that point.

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