Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 29, 2013

Goshen city government was highly productive in quiet 2013

Goshen city government was highly productive in 2013

By JOHN KLINE john.kline@goshennews.com
Goshen News

---- — GOSHEN — It was a fairly quiet yet productive year for Goshen city government in 2013.

From quick and refreshingly painless action on crafting the 2014 budget to long and drawn out talks about the possibility of a new deputy mayor position, the seven members of the Goshen City Council worked throughout the year on many different issues within the city, though none that really rocked the boat.

Councilman Ed Ahlersmeyer cited the deputy mayor position as perhaps the most controversial issue dealt with by the council this year, leading to a rare veto by Mayor Allan Kauffman.

“The deputy mayor position was interesting,” Ahlersmeyer said. “I thought the Republicans compromised to get that through for the mayor, yet the veto was a surprise.”

On the flip side, Ahlersmeyer praised both the mayor and Council President Jim McKee for their work on the budget for 2014.

“The input from the chamber and others involved was a catalyst to bring us together,” Ahlersmeyer said of the budgetary process.

For his part, McKee said he also believed the deputy mayor position and work on the 2014 budget ranked among the top issues dealt with by the council over the course of the year. Also included on that list is the council’s decision to take $500,000 from the city’s Rainy Day fund to help balance the budget, as well as the council’s vote to send a controversial $27.6 million Goshen Community Center project to a special referendum.

“There were other important issues,” McKee said, “but these were the ones that really stuck out.”

Councilman Jeremy Stutsman said he thinks the continued learning connected to the effects from the state property tax caps is one of the bigger issues the city faced in 2013.

“Since the caps have taken place and the economy and assessed values being down, the city has had to run very lean and we are always looking for efficiencies,” Stutsman said.

Councilwoman Julia Gautsche also pointed to city funding concerns and the effects of the property tax caps as her top pick for big issues dealt with by the city in 2013.

“In 2013, the city lost $3.5 million as a result of property tax caps with no additional sources of revenue provided,” Gautsche said. “Thanks to sound management and dedicated city employees, we have been able to maintain all city services at the high quality standard we expect. Fire and police respond when needed. The street department picks up leaves and Christmas trees, plows snow and repairs streets. Engineering continues to build sidewalks, plan roads and update water and sewer lines. Trash continues to be picked up. At some point, we will need to raise revenue or decrease city services.”

Over at the mayor’s office, Mayor Kauffman pointed to the momentum made this year on finding a workable solution for the controversial South Link Road as a highlight of the year — momentum made possible, he said, by a much improved relationship between city and county government.

“Working with the committee of city and county officials, it seems we finally have what could be a workable solution for the South Link Road,” Kauffman said. “We still don’t know when that can get built, but it’s looking a lot more affordable, and can be done in a quicker period of time than when we were talking about a new river crossing on C.R. 40.”

Like Ahlersmeyer, Kauffman also pointed to the new idea of including the Goshen Chamber of Commerce in the budgetary process this year as a big win for the city and the council.

“Another thing I think was a big deal this year is the fact that we involved the Goshen Chamber of Commerce in our budget process, and asked them to look at the efficiencies we’ve created and what we’ve done to deal with tax caps,” Kauffman said. “It wasn’t only a business person’s committee, but when a lot of business people look at what you’ve done and what your plans are, and they say, ‘You’ve done a good job and you have a revenue problem, not a spending problem’, it speaks pretty loudly. So I think that was a big one.”

Kauffman also praised the ongoing work on city infrastructure this year, as well as the myriad of city officials who helped to make it all happen.

For starters, Kauffman praised the continued vibrancy of Goshen’s downtown. Kauffman also commended projects such as the development of the Fidler Pond, Mill Street Park and the Jefferson Street reconstruction between Fifth and Main streets, as well as the ongoing development along Goshen’s millrace.

“Then you have the progress being made on the U.S. 33 project, which I guess isn’t outstanding for this last year, but it is outstanding when you consider that we’re almost to a decision, and its been going on for the entire 17 years that I’ve been in office,” Kauffman said. “So it’s nice to see that coming closer to a resolution.”

The new year

Jumping forward to 2014, concerns about the budget and what to do about declining revenues seemed to top the list of issues expected to be faced by the city in the coming year.

“We will be faced with deciding if we should find alternative funding sources to help balance our budget,” Stutsman said, “or decide what services we as a community can do without to balance our budget.”

Along those lines, Kauffman noted that discussions such as the possible establishment of a new trash fee for the city may resurface in 2014, though he noted that such an option is just one of numerous options the council may consider under such circumstances.

“We’ve got some different options, most of which need county or state help,” Kauffman said. “We still could talk about a trash fee, but that’s the last option in anybody’s mind really. That’s about our fourth choice down on the list right now.”

Other potential hot-button issues mentioned by the mayor and council as things to watch out for in 2014 include: updating Goshen’s Comprehensive Plan and Community Vision; development of new housing opportunities along the millrace; continued road and infrastructure upgrades throughout the city; safety improvements and the establishment of a Quiet Zone along the Ninth Street Corridor; the impact of possible new Local Option Income Tax options at the county level.