Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 27, 2013

Goodnight seeking $2.8M to spend

Council asked to appropriate EDIT dollars.

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— The trust between Kokomo city administration officials and the Kokomo Common Council seems to have improved since the low point of 2007.

That year, the city was almost broke. There was a $5.1 million deficit in the general fund, and then-Mayor Matt McKillip and the city council were embroiled in a battle over spending.

That was the year the council threatened to sue McKillip if he spent any more economic development income tax revenue without getting council approval first. McKillip backed down after the State Board of Accounts weighed in on the council’s side.

Fast forward to this year, which the city started with almost an almost $10 million surplus in the general fund.

With a track record of spending less than the city takes in, current Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight sent a $2.8 million EDIT appropriation request to the city council.

Goodnight’s resolution simply asks the council to make the money available; it doesn’t specify what the money might be used for.

That’s a change from the ways things were after the McKillip/council fight, when for several years, first McKillip and then Goodnight offered specifics when requesting permission to spend EDIT funds.

It’s also different from the way Howard County government operates. County council members vote on each EDIT spending request individually, as the requests arise.

City director of operations Randy Morris said Friday the city currently has “no specific plans” on how to spend the $2.8 million.

“Should a project come along, we’ll have the funds available to utilize,” Morris said.

About half the money would be made available for infrastructure, business assistance, business attraction and relocation, redevelopment and community development and revitalization, according to the resolution, which went out to council members Thursday.

The remainder of the money would be made available for property, right­ of way and infrastructure development.

Those broad categories don’t however, encompass all of the possible uses of EDIT money, which can be used for just about any purpose. Once the money is appropriated, the mayor would have full discretion over how the money is spent.

Morris said the administration has done well with past spending decisions, and can be trusted to do the same in 2013.

Council President Mike Kennedy, D-At Large, would seem to agree, saying he hasn’t yet talked with Goodnight about the appropriation request.

None of the money, at least at this point, is slated to be used building a parking garage in downtown Kokomo, Morris said.

He said the city wants a design and to have some indication of what the garage might cost before deciding how it will be paid for.

The good news for city officials is that more of the EDIT money will be available for projects than in past years.

Last year, the bonds for the Kokomo Beach Aquatic Center were paid off, so none of the EDIT money is obligated to debt payments, Morris said. The city is also finished paying lease payments held over from the McKillip years.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.