City council members on Tuesday gave final approval to a $15.6 million 2021 spending plan, one that includes a 1% pay raise for all city employees.
Despite relatively dire predictions made this spring by the city’s financial advisors with Reedy Financial Group in Seymour, city council president Tim Salters said Vincennes looks to fare well next year, all things considered.
“Obviously when we came into March we thought — because of COVID — that we were going to be in a lot of trouble, just like every other county in Indiana; every state for that matter,” he said.
This spring, amid the shutdown associated with the novel coronavirus, financial consultants were warning of a near 10% reduction in tax revenue.
Businesses shuttered. People were out of jobs, so there was the assumption of a decrease in income tax revenue.
But, said Salters, as businesses reopened in May, the local economy bounced back better than expected.
“As businesses reopened, our numbers got better,” he said.
“Too, when you have responsible department heads and a mayor who will continually work on these things, it meant we ended up in a very good spot.”
Last month, Mayor Joe Yochum explained that while the budget “is not the best,” the city looks to receive enough revenue that he elected to request a 1% raise for all city employees.
The final approval of the measure during last night’s city council meeting means all city government workers will receive the pay increase next year, with the exception of city council members, who have elected not to accept it themselves.
“Where you’re seeing other communities cut back on things like salaries and services, we’re not,” Salters said.
The council president said part of the credit for the city’s financial stability in the midst of such uncertain times is owed to local residents themselves.
“A lot of our success has to do with the way the community rallied around one another,” he said, adding that Vincennes is in a good position moving forward.
One hurdle the council did have tackle during this latest budget season was appropriating the funds to cover a 60% increase in health insurance costs — which actually isn’t as bad as initially expected.
During this last year, the city’s insurance company, Southern Indiana Health Organization (or SIHO), paid out $2.3 million in claims, a huge jump from previous years and a lot more than the $1.1 million the city paid out in premiums.
As a result, SIHO predicted a more than 100% increase in premiums for this next year, set to begin on Aug. 1.
The city looked to Benefits 7, 780 Old Wheatland Road, for help. The city’s insurance was let out for bid; only three companies responded.
And in the end, SIHO put forth the best offer, with premiums set to increase by 60% — or about $600,000 — settling the city’s total premium cost for next year at $1.8 million.
City employees’ out of pocket costs, too, will go up, so the mayor and Salters are pleased to be able to offer them even the slightest of pay raises in 2021.
“We have to take care of the people who take care of the city,” Salters said.