Budget hearings for the 2017 fiscal year begin in Elkhart

The Elkhart City Council began to review the proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year on Tuesday night.

The proposed budget is up 8 percent from 2016, at $66.8 million.

Almost half of the budget is allocated for public safety.

In 2016 around $20 million went towards public safety. In the proposed 2017 budget, over $30 million is set aside.

Mayor Tim Neese is hoping that major increase will make a dent in the city’s crime.

$13.5 million would go to police resources. A proposed anti-crime unit would create five new positions in the department.

“These individuals will work largely undercover and focus in part on drugs and gangs,” said Mayor Tim Neese.

Fifteen new take home police vehicles would account for $700,000.

"We have to be ready. You’ve seen what’s happening across this country. The last thing we want to happen is all hell breaks out in Elkhart and we don’t have the people ready and willing to come in or they have to go to the station and grab a squad car. If something goes bad, we want to be able to respond,” said Chief Ed Windbigler.

Some of the take home vehicles would go to officers who do not live in the city limits, Councilman David Henke says he’s opposed to giving incentives like that to officers who don’t live in the city.

"Put back take home vehicles to the city of Elkhart, where they belong, where the tax payers pay for them,” said Henke.

In the proposed budget, $11 million is allocated for the fire department.

The department would be able to establish four new positions and add new training programs.

"The city is growing a little bit, geographical locations have expanded so we've expanded a little bit more than what our needs have and what our budget has,” said Chief Chad Carey.

In the coming days the council will also discuss funds for economic development and improvements to parks and streets.

Click here to take a look at the proposed Elkhart budget for 2017.

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