GREENCASTLE -- With little on the agenda Tuesday evening, the Greencastle Common Council's main orders of business at its first meeting of the year was to organize for 2010.
On this front, council members chose unanimously to keep their organization largely unchanged from 2009. Adam Cohen will again serve as council president, and all council assignments and department liaisons will remain the same as last year.
Appointments to the redevelopment commission were once again up at the beginning of the year. Councilors voted unanimously to reappoint Jim Ruark to the commission and to appoint DePauw economics professor Dr. Gary Lemon.
"In these uncertain times, I think he brings some expertise," Cohen said.
A proposed grease trap ordinance was once again on the agenda and once again tabled by the council while more research is done. Mayor Sue Murray said the city will be sending out a letter and survey to all entities potentially affected by the measure. The goal is not to put undue hardship on those not contributing to the problem.
Clerk-treasurer Teresa Glenn spoke to the council about the recent shortfall in the city's property tax draws for 2009. The December settlement came in on Dec. 30 and resulted in a shortfall of $165,500.
Glenn echoed Mayor Murray's previous comments to the Banner Graphic about the job city employees have done to minimize these issues.
"Luckily, every department underspent their budget, so we didn't have a problem because of it," Glenn said. "Our shortfall is not a result of anything we've done wrong, the county's done wrong or any of the departments have done wrong. It's simply a problem of not knowing what the collections are going to be."
She pointed out, though, the situation is not getting any better, as the property tax caps the state legislature is moving toward will only further tie the hands of municipalities and school systems.
"I think the property tax cap coming into effect is only going to compound the problem," Glenn said. "If we're going to continue to offer the services the city has offered in the past, we're going to have to get the money from somewhere. It's either going to come from property taxes or somewhere else."
Until officials have a clearer picture of where local government finance is heading, city officials will continue to make ends meet as well as possible.
"We're going to be OK. We still ended the year in the black. We still have reserves, but we're eventually going to run out of those reserves," Glenn said.
Finally, Mayor Murray reported that she and City Attorney Laurie Hardwick were at the Statehouse Monday testifying before the General Assembly.
Murray's testimony pertained to property tax caps and the harm they will do to local government. Hardwick testified about changes to Indiana's Open Door Law and the civil penalties it could now hold for officials who intentionally violate the state's public access laws.
"The intent is clear and nobody has any problem with the intent," Hardwick said. The problem lies more with the language of the statute and the broadness of some of the language.
The council will meet next on Jan. 26 and 28 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for the annual department supervisors retreat.