Members of South Bend's Common Council raise concerns over 2022 budget proposal
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The South Bend Common Council hearing the 2022 budget proposal and members of the community and the council are saying that the current proposal needs reconsideration.
South Bend City Controllers have presented a $380 million budget proposal, saying “We’re committed to the long-term financial stability of the city.”
Unlike past budgets, this comes with roughly $58 million in American Rescue Plan Funds- $14.5 million of which the Common Council set aside for the current budget at the last meeting.
Much of the funding is being funneled into programs promoting stronger neighborhoods and green infrastructure.
Some believe the federal money is being divided up too quickly, with not enough discussion.
“Yes, it is a generational opportunity," said one speaker. "But I’m not too sure if we’ve taken advantage of some of the opportunity to its fullest extent.”
Councilman Henry Davis Jr. said of the proposal “We don’t see anything about tax base, expanding tax base, recruitment of new employers, or better quality of life for our citizens. There’s nothing in the budget that supports any of those things.”
And Lori Hamann, also on the Common Council, wishes the city held off on earmarking all of the funds from the ARP.
“I thought that we would have a separate budget process for those ARP dollars and that is not how it has turned out,” said Hamann.
According to her, these temporary ARP funds are being used in the creation of non-temporary programs and positions, which could lead to a deficit in the future.
Another issue- some believe these funds could be better used directly in neighborhoods and communities that have been suffering for years.
“We don’t have confidence that those neighborhoods are being prioritized in the way that we feel like they should, said community activist Jorden Giger.
Giger said he filed questions and concerns with the council as to how the money will be spent.
He said "We submitted budget questions on August 27th- they have not been answered to this very day."
The budget is currently scheduled to be voted on by the Common Council on October 11, and some residents and council members say that more work needs to be done before that can happen.
“I see no reason why we cannot vote on the budget on the last Monday on our last Monday in October," said Hamann.
“Shame on this council if we pass this budget," said Davis Jr. "Again, there is nothing that states tax base expansion, employer recruitment and also higher quality of life. If we are not checking those boxes, we are not doing our job.”
The deadline to for the budget to be passed is November 1, and councilmembers are hoping that they can have more time to discuss specifics of the budget.