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July 8, 2020

6/24/2020 12:18:00 PM
Virus causing concern over '21 budget

There will not be any fireworks at the conclusion of baseball/softball season this coming Labor Day weekend.

The North Vernon City Council voted 2-1 to quash the display at their meeting Monday night, June 22, with Jack Kelley and Jerry Lamb voting to cancel what is usually about a $10,000 event and Council President Brian Hatfield voting to keep the event as scheduled. Two councilors, Trent Wisner and Baron Wilder, were not present at the meeting.

Kelley made the motion not to have a city-sponsored fireworks display over Labor Day weekend for several reasons, noting that since there are pyrotechnics scheduled for July Fourth at the fairgrounds, once was enough. This will also save the city $8000 to $10,000,too, he pointed out.

Jerry Lamb agreed and the vote was cast.

The vote came after a warning by Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Gerkin that the city may need to tighten its belt, as the coronavirus is wreaking havoc with government finances. He said he does not know when the city will receive their June distribution of taxes from the state because property tax payment deadline has been extended past the May deadline.

Also, many people are laid off, which will mean the city will not be receiving its usual amount of Local Option Income Taxes (LOIT) which helps fund the police and fire departments.

"I'm not trying to be the bearer of bad news," he said. The city currently has "a nice healthy balance," Gerkin continued, which could sustain government for anywhere from six months to a year.

Because of the uncertainty of finances for 2022, Gerkin suggested the city hold its departments to a zero percent increase for next year, instead of the usual two to three increases in each area.

"As far as large raises and benefits, I think it's a bad idea," he concluded, as $3 million of the $4.6 million general fund is funded from property taxes.

City utilities finances have also suffered from the virus; for example, one of the water department's largest users is the school corporation. With schools closed for months, very little water has been used, which results in billings that "You'll never get back."

"We're a long way from trouble, but I just think it's time to be conservative and cautious over the next six months until we see how this will work out."

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