Some Lawrence council members want more than $200,000 in cuts to mayor’s proposed budget

LAWRENCE, Ind. - The Lawrence common council faces a deadline to approve the city's budget for 2017. Now, some council members are pushing for cuts of more than $200,000  to the mayor's proposed budget.

A majority of finance committee members recommended the cuts at a meeting last Thursday, less than a week before the council is expected to adopt a budget.

"We would've liked to have seen the proposed cuts prior to the actual meeting taking place," said Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier, (R).

The most affected department would be police. In the amended budget, the police department would get around $100,000 less than what the mayor is proposing. The mayor's office funding would be decreased by more than $36,000 and the fire department would see around $19,000 less than what was presented in the administration's budget.

"I was a little puzzled," said council member Tom Shevlot, (R)- District 5. " Why are we cutting a balanced budget?"

Council members who support the cuts say they want the city to tighten its belt and decrease its dependence on money from the water utility.

"It is time that we take a stand and stop overspending out of out of our water utility, and the first place to do that is for us to get our own city financial affairs in order," said finance committee chair Tyrell Giles, (D) - District 1 in a press release.

Giles said the city has been using the water utility as a "cash cow" over the years and now the utility is in poor financial shape.

Mayor Collier said the water utility and the city's budget are two separate issues.

"If their intent was to force the issue on the utility, they certainly have been heard," Collier said.

Collier also  said the city will still be able to protect its citizens' despite the cuts but some adjustments may have to be made next year.

"There are some thing that we were planning on doing that we will have to hold off a little bit," Collier said.

"It's troublesome," said Shevlot. " The administration came to the council. Each department head came before the council. Each department head came before the council. Every council member had an opportunity to ask any question about this budget. I didn't get a sense from any council member that this was going to be a budget that anyone had issue with."

The council needs to adopt a budget Wednesday in order to meet state deadlines. If they fail to that, they would have to revert to the 2016 budget. According to the city controller, doing that would risk around $500,000 in revenue for the city.