Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr. presented the City of Hammond’s 2021 Budget to the City Council Tuesday evening, explaining to the body that the City has so far weathered 2020 better than expected by being careful with its spending and eliminating jobs due to retirement and attrition.
The City of Hammond Civil Budget 2021 reflects at total levy of $85 million, which reflects a 2.3% decrease from 2020. In efforts to combat the continued impact of the state-mandated circuit breakers that limits property tax collections for cities across Indiana, the city made attrition related staffing cuts resulting in a total of 21 positions being cut in the year 2021. The city’s largest line items include public safety, in which the police department accounts for $32M and the city fire department is $23M, so that police and fire make up nearly 65% of the city budget. City health and other insurance is the next biggest cost of $12M, or 14% of the budget.
The city’s College Bound program costs will continue to be paid by Illinois water revenue and economic development tax increment revenues alleviating reliance on the General Fund.
The 2021 Budget reflects a revenue increase of $3M, attributable in most part to an increase in Illinois water revenue to the civil city. While these revenue increases occurred, they were the exception rather than the rule during 2020 due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Top revenue generators for the city for 2021, assuming normal operations, will be Casino Revenue ($36M), Property Tax Revenue ($33M), and Illinois Water Revenue ($10.5M).
The pandemic hit city coffers hard, resulting in decreases in several funds. These included a 38% to date decrease of gaming revenue; a 40% decrease in service and fee revenue; a 20% drop in park revenue due in most part to the parks, fields, Jean Shepard Center, and Sportsplex being closed during the early stages of the pandemic; an 18% drop in Motor Vehicle and Highway funds due to lower gasoline sales during the COVID-19 outbreak; $425,000 loss of the city’s Local Option Income Tax revenue it receives from the state and county; and a loss of of over 10% fee-related and miscellaneous revenue that the city general fund relies upon for departmental operations.
Despite experiencing a significant decrease in revenue, Mayor McDermott’s halt of major capital projects that had not already been committed to in 2020 resulted in the city being ready to resume close to normal operations in 2021. The budget anticipates nearly $12M being set over to the newly formed Capital Improvement Board to utilize gaming money throughout the city. Mayor McDermott announced his appointments to that board, Megan Flores, City Controller, Jaime Prieto Assistant Director of Hammond Water Works, and Milan Kruszynski, Director Hammond Port Authority. They will join City Engineer Dean Button and the City Council Appointees Councilwoman Janet Venecz and Councilmen Dan Spitale and Barry Tyler, Jr. The Board anticipates its first meeting to take place in early November to begin planning for 2021.
The budget also funds all city departments and sets aside gaming dollars for the mayor and each district councilperson. A rainy day fund has been set up and $750,000 will be placed in that fund in 2021. The Gaming Advisory Committee, which accepts applications from non-profits and other community organizations will also receive $750,000 for its 2021 grants.
Finally, the budget reflects a 2% salary increase for all City of Hammond employees. “I’m proud of the budget that my administration has submitted to the council for their consideration. I’m also extremely proud of the city employees who have weathered 2020 and been able to continue to provide city services and have kept city government operational despite all of the challenges that 2020 have brought to us,” said Mayor McDermott.