A few weeks ago, we participated in a budget workshop to present the proposed 2023 budget... and for department heads to share their priorities. We indicated that we expect a 9.3% increase in revenue for 2023. In addition to this revenue increase, the DLGF fund balances have grown by $5 million. This is more than 11% since I took office. Crowe and I have shared that Zionsville is in a strong financial position. Our cash balances and reserves are very healthy.
For 2023, this budget is a refreshed focus on investing in capital expenditures, community investment and Town personnel. During the September 22 budget workshop, department heads presented their capital expenditure priorities. Following this workshop, Town Council President Jason Plunkett requested capital outlays to be removed from the budget. He requested for these expenditures to be added as additional appropriations next year. These capital expenditures reflect real needs now in addition to community demands. Our approach is to provide a straightforward and fully transparent 2023 budget to the public.
This approach allows staff to plan for purchasing in the fiscal year ahead just like anyone would in a private business. Requiring additional appropriations outside of the budget process is an administrative burden due to the time, money and staff resources needed to prepare resolutions, public hearing notices and supporting documents. It also fails to provide a full outlook for municipal spending in the year ahead. I will share some of these capital expenses that were discussed during the budget workshop.
In the Department of Public Works, expenditures include nearly $420,000 in replacement or purchase of critical public works equipment. This includes a backhoe, a pickup truck lease, a leaf vac, a heavy-duty trailer and more. DPW needs to be able to get in line for purchasing this equipment like other municipalities across the Midwest. With resources and supply chain operations less reliable, orders may be back logged and we don’t want to find ourselves behind other municipalities in obtaining this equipment.
DPW expenditures also include $850,000 in pathway construction and $75,000 for an Oak Street corridor study. There are four proposed pathways for construction: the north side of Mulberry Street, the northeast corner of Maplelawn Farmstead along both Whitestown Road and CR 950 East, the west side of County Road 875 East and the south side of County Road 400 South. These proposed pathways are near schools. The pathway along the north side of Mulberry Street will offer alternate routes to and from Zionsville High School and Zionsville Middle School to possibly reduce the need to cross at the roundabout. The pathways at the northeast corner of Maplelawn Farmstead will offer more options for pedestrians to get to and from Zionsville Middle School as well as Zionsville High School. The others – the County Road 875 East and County Road 400 South pathways – are needed to get students to and from Trailside Elementary as well as the many activities held at the school’s sports complex. We have heard time and time again from our citizens that they are not just requesting new pathways – they are demanding it – especially along school routes. Safe routes to school should not be delayed particularly when we have fund balance accrued to fully fund projects like these.
In the Police Department, capital expenditures include patrol cars, vehicle equipment, firearms, ammunition, computers and field equipment (this includes radios, radars, swat team gear and bike patrol gear). This equipment is vital to ZPD’s patrol work as well as their service in our school system. Body armor has an expiration date and needs to be replaced in a timely manner. We are proud that ZPD is a progressive department and well-equipped with body cameras, in-car vehicle cameras and more. Let’s ensure they are able to maintain the highest level of service our community has come to expect.
The Fire Department’s capital replacement plan includes $3.2 million of requests. These requests include the replacement of one engine, two tankers, one medic, one support truck, one car and one fire inspector truck. ZFD has not replaced any apparatus over the past two years. A municipal fire apparatus was formerly on an 8–10-month delivery schedule. Now the delivery schedule is anticipated to be 24-30 months. In other words, the department won’t receive the apparatus until two years after placing the order. We must take into consideration the lengthy delivery schedule and enable ZFD to move forward with their capital replacement plan in January.
We heard from department heads about supply chain delays. It will take time to order equipment, which will put us behind in our staff’s needs. Therefore, it is critical that this budget is approved with capital expenditures included. Department heads have real needs now and must start the process of purchasing equipment and planning for capital projects.
It is prudent that we take advantage of our communities' tax dollars with our fund balances surplus. We have an obligation to put these dollars to use toward real equipment needs of our public safety departments and infrastructure needs. We have saved for this and delayed past purchases.
In addition to the transparent budgeting process of including capital expenditures, I would like to talk about council’s request for an increase of $75,000 to their legal budget. We have compiled legal fees over the past seven years. Since 2016, the Town has paid council’s legal firm, Barnes & Thornburg, over $2.6 million. The request to increase council’s legal budget is out of step with the legal expenses incurred throughout all other town departments and boards. Over those seven years, the Town paid other legal firms just over $1 million. We need to continue to have a conversation around council's ask for additional dollars for their legal expenses, especially considering the administration’s attorney serves all departments, from reviewing contracts, fielding public access requests, managing employment issues, drafting ordinances and attending Parks Board meetings.
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the 2023 budget. We look forward to advocating for our community and workforce and moving forward with a budget that will allow our department heads to plan ahead with capital expenditures identified and funded.