ANDERSON — Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. believes the city council violated state law when it approved an amendment increasing the proposed 2018 budget.
By a vote of 5-4, the council on Thursday approved an amendment that would add $145,000 to the Parks and Recreation Department budget for new equipment and a full-time employee and $55,000 for a new employee in the Street Department budget.
The action came despite warnings from City Attorney Tim Lanane that state law specifies the council can reduce a budget, but not increase it without a recommendation from or approval by the mayor.
“They have no legal authority to increase the budget without the mayor’s approval or recommendation,” Broderick said Friday. “I’m required to follow the law. They passed an amendment that is on the face of it illegal.”
Broderick said he is weighing the administration’s options after the council approved the amendment and then tabled votes on the budget and several salary ordinances until Oct. 24.
The final budget must be submitted to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) by Nov. 1.
“I’m not going to hire two people,” Broderick said. “They have placed in jeopardy the budget and pay increases for the employees. I have to protect the city.”
The majority of the council members wanted the new employee in the Park Department to maintain trails and for the Street Department to spray for weeds along city streets.
“There are programs in progress for the Park Department,” Broderick said. “We have five more people in the Street Department than in the past. The budget has enough money to do everything they want done.
“I’m the mayor and they are the council,” he continued. “I know the amendment is illegal.”
The city is checking with the DLGF to determine what the potential impact of the amendment will have on the 2018 budget.
Councilman Ty Bibbs, D-at large, who proposed the amendment, in an email on Friday said if the mayor will put in writing a plan to maintain the park system trails and streets, improve the Southside Pool complex and purchase trail maintenance equipment, he will move to rescind the amendment at the Oct. 24 meeting.
Broderick said he put in writing what he committed verbally to doing at the council meeting.
“Withdrawing the amendment is the best course of action,” he said. “The state will look at it as an illegal act and kick the city back to the 2017 budget levels.”
Broderick said the budget process involved the department heads and a review by the council in August. Proposed funding changes, he said, should have been presented before Thursday.
“The procedures are outlined,” Broderick said of the budget process. “The budget sets the priorities for the administration. We presented the budget to the council and no one ever tried to negotiate with the administration.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Culp, R-1st District, did raise the issue of trail maintenance during the budget review sessions in August and again when the council passed the proposed budget on two of three required readings.
“Some council members didn’t see the amendment until an hour before the meeting,” she said. “This was an ambush. They had plenty of opportunities to discuss the budget.”
Broderick said the proposed 2018 budget of $31.9 million in the general fund doesn’t spend more than projected city revenues.
“The amendment puts the entire budget in jeopardy,” he said.
The administration is concerned the DLGF will not approve the 2018 budget and the city will have to operate under the 2017 approved budget and those revenues.
Controller Doug Whitham said reverting to the 2017 budget could cost the city up to $1 million.
Twice within the past five years the DLGF has required cities in Madison County to operate on a previously approved budget because of missed requirements.
In 2013, the Anderson City Council failed to have a public hearing on the 2014 budget. The DLGF reverted back to the city’s 2013 budget, which cost the city $810,742 in revenues and reduced the operating balance by $1.8 million.
The city of Elwood had to revert back to its 2015 budget for 2016 after canceling a public hearing on the budget. That meeting was cancelled when only three of the seven council members were in attendance.