GOSHEN, Ind. - Tuesday night, Goshen’s mayor hosted a final town hall meeting after his 2014 State of the City speech. Only a handful of residents showed up, turning what was supposed to be a formal presentation into an informal discussion of the highlights and challenges for the Maple City.
Mayor Allan Kauffman started out by talking business. A combination of business and city leaders worked through the 2014 budgeting process to make everyone “feel better” about an unbalanced budget.
2013 was the first year in recent memory where the city spent more than it took in. According to Kauffman, in 2013 spend roughly $400,000 more than raised through revenue. The losses, Kauffman said, are due to property tax caps.
For the second year in a row, the city of Goshen will likely spend $400,000 more than it takes in.
“I think the biggest threat we have right now is what state government is looking at doing, with trying to reduce every kind of tax to the lowest tax in the decision. I don’t think we can be on the drive to the bottom and still provide for our communities the way we want to do it,” said Kauffman.
Last year the city assembled a task force of local business owners, officials and residents to speak with government department heads about their budgeting.
An individual on the task force said she was shocked to hear how much departments had already cut back on in previous years and didn’t think there was much more that could be eliminated without services being disrupted.
One of the biggest challenges for Goshen is raising enough revenue to maintain on-going services like road repair, police and fire presence. The city has tossed around the idea of a local option income tax, a one-percent food and beverage tax, or a fee for trash and recycling; none of those will be adopted in 2014.
Kauffman also painted a picture that placed cities and local governments at odds with state legislators. Adding that the biggest threat to the Maple City, is the Hoosier State.
“It’s like the state’s not a partner with us, we’re on opposite sides of the table on too many issues and we’re trying to figure out how to change that, because cities are the economic engines of the state and we ought to be partners with the state, and they ought to be looking at ways we can succeed and not trying to figure out how to choke us even more on revenue.”
The mayor said Goshen will continue to fight off anti-annexation, further restrictions on tax increment financing districts and the loss of business personal property tax revenues.
Despite the challenges the Maple City will see a great deal of growth in 2014.
The number of construction and improvement projects in 2013 will pale in comparison for what’s planned in 2014, said Kauffman.
The city plans on improving traffic on the south side of Goshen, renovating the Goshen Theatre, groundbreaking on town homes along the Mill Race, the potential opening of a brew pub along the Mill Race, and the conversion of the former Hawks building into artisan space and housing.