(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - A mayoral veto has provided a major twist in the City of Lawrenceburg’s 2013 budget plans.
During a city council meeting Monday evening, Mayor Dennis Carr vetoed the $42.2 million budget, which was approved by council on a 3-2 vote on Wednesday, October 24.
Prior to the vote at last week’s meeting, councilman Bill-Bill Bruner accused new council members Mike Lawrence, Jane Pope, and Doug Taylor of being the only people involved in crafting the budget, which has traditionally included input from all five council members, the mayor, and department heads. Bruner and councilman Aaron Cook were the minority votes against the budget.
In a memorandum provided at Monday’s meeting, Carr listed three reasons he exercised his veto power. The first, he said, was that procedure according to state law was not followed.
“Under Indiana Code section 36-4-7-6, the preparation and presentation of the budget estimates is to be made by the Clerk-Treasurer after consultation, review and revision by the Mayor and his department heads,” Carr stated in the memo.
Carr said that council can only prepare an ordinance setting the tax rate and appropriations after reviewing a report by the Clerk-Treasurer. The mayor noted that Lawrenceburg’s 2013 budget will likely revert back to the existing 2012 budget and levies.
Second, Carr stated he believes property tax relief in the budget would only benefit 55 percent of property owners. Lawrence, Pope, and Taylor’s budget had previously reduced property taxes for to only about one cent per $100 of assessed valuation, saving property owners about $5.5 million. The tax revenue used to fund city operations would have been compensated for with riverboat revenue from Lawrenceburg’s agreement with Hollywood Casino.
While Carr said he supports efforts to maximize the benefit of riverboat revenue to help city residents, but property tax relief is not the best way. The mayor said the budget’s tax provision would result in a disproportionate relief to non-resident landlords and corporate property owners.
“The City is already under its maximum allowable levy and this will continue in 2013. Based on my estimates, the City will be approximately $365,000 under its maximum allowable levy in 2013 which would translate to about a 6% savings for property owners,” Carr said in his memorandum.
During last week’s budget meeting, a resident suggested a more fair way to use riverboat money to benefit all Lawrenceburg residents and businesses – including renters who likely would not have reaped the benefits of property tax relief – is through cheaper utilities. It’s an idea Carr is getting behind.
“I will support a plan for 2013 that incorporates using Riverboat revenues to relieve the costs of utility bills,” Carr said. “This is a program we can initiate in 2013 and effectively pass on savings that will benefit residents of the City of Lawrenceburg.”
Thirdly, Carr has concerns that the budget would eliminate four people on the mayor’s staff and drastically reduced the compensation for a fifth staff member. Carr said the majority of those people are union members.
“These positions are an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the executive branch of the City. Additionally, specific ongoing and future projects would be impossible to complete as required without these key staff members,” the mayor said.
Carr concluded his veto memorandum by calling upon the entire council to come together to support a meaningful plan to utilize riverboat revenues to help residents.