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Budget battle looming in Elkhart

ELKHART, Ind. – The debate over the proposed 2013 budget for the City of Elkhart is likely to be heated as council members and Elkhart’s mayor laid out their positions at Monday’s common council meeting.

Mayor Dick Moore has proposed making nearly $2-million in cuts in his proposed budget for 2013.  Among other cuts the Moore has proposed putting cops on firefighters on furlough days to save money and to not replace city workers who retire.

“It’s been a real struggle, it’s been somewhat agonizing at times,” Mayor Moore said of the budget.  “We have done an awful lot of it on the backs of our city employees.”

However, last Friday the four republicans on the council and one democrat criticized Moore’s budget saying they plan on adding more cuts and that the mayor was trimming the budget in the wrong places.

“A lot of it’s political differences in how I would run the city versus what they, they being the republican side of the aisle would manage the city,” Moore claimed.  “It’s always been there it will always be there.”

Councilman David Henke (R-3rd District) said the debate is less about pitting the parties against each other and said it was more about coming up with different solutions that could potentially mean fewer cuts and more efficiency.

“It’s not a republican/democrat issue, it shouldn’t be at this point in the game, we’re in trouble,” Henke described.  “We should do the prudent financial thing for the city of Elkhart.”

Henke laid out his suggestions for the budget which would include possibly privatizing Elkhart’s airport and other city departments.  He also said some of the controversial cuts, such as a proposed 50-percent cut in funding to economic development, could be avoided by hiring private collection agencies to collect overdue bills, fees and taxes.

“If you look at those things and say, ‘Gosh we can come up with a million dollars on the side if we wish to or we could simply just ask the public for more money,’ which one do you want to go to?” Henke explained.  “We’re suggesting we go after the money we’re owed before you ask more money from the same people who paid.”

Though Monday’s council meeting didn’t include formal debate about the budget, Elkhart resident Kurpgeweit tried to offer a list of suggestions to the council.  She wasn’t allowed to present her list because the council is only going to be discussing the budget during special meetings.  Kurpgeweit said she’s worried about the city’s budget while Elkhart’s economy is still shaky.

“We’re looking at becoming as lean as we possibly can, so that the people of Elkhart are not burdened anymore than they already are,” Kurpgeweit explained.  “You have people losing hours, people losing jobs, people losing homes and we cannot continue to ask the people to pay more and more and more and get less and less and less.”

Starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday the council will begin meeting at budget sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-weeks going over the budget piece by piece.  The council can make revisions to the budget and vote to approve it as soon as October 15.

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