By JIM MCKEE
Goshen City Council resident
I am writing to provide clarification and hopefully provide a better understanding as to why I voted against the sidewalk proposal. This was not a vote against sidewalks or children. As a council member and resident of the Maple City I understand the value of sidewalks. My grandchildren walk to a variety of schools in the Goshen school district.
The purpose of the existing city sidewalk program is to provide incentive to home owners by subsidizing a significant portion of the expense. Many residents have participated and enjoyed this benefit. The property tax caps and concerns over city finances is indeed a challenge, yet the city has managed to keep this program for all of its citizens.
The proposal concerning the sidewalks and the associated costs were discussed and multiple proposals were made. Some members of the council suggested that with current financial obligations it would be acceptable to offer the use of the engineering department at no charge. The council approved this to help expedite the process. The engineering department is currently understaffed as they, like many other areas, have to make due. Several departments are running shorthanded while city employees continue to do great work in our city. Some city employees have not had raises in several years. The bottom line is we just don’t have the money for all the “wants” and must first meet the “need.”
As an elected councilman it is my responsibility to make tough decisions and this was one of them. The city has already used portions of the rainy day fund. Fiscal responsibility mandated my vote.
The city has enjoyed a great relationship with the Goshen school district and partnered with them on many successful projects. I look forward to a continued effort to ensure we have a great city with a great school system. I am proud of both.
The opportunity exists for the school to use a portion of their $6 million rainy day fund. Both the city and the school system serve the citizens of Goshen.
Budget planning for 2014 starts in one month. I would encourage everybody to stay involved and ask questions. It is likely that more tough decisions will have to be made. There is already concern over the addition of a trash fee for all residents, which I do not support. I prefer an open dialogue and transparency concerning these decisions. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of what we receive in taxes before adding new ones. It is my priority to ensure I vote in a fiscally sound manner while meeting the needs of all of the people of our city.