Author: Robert Stanley

South Bend Common Council September 9th Budget Meeting

Budget Hearing Session for Strategic Initiatives

The Parks & Recreation department head, Aaron Perri, first introduced a new organization chart for the department, which split from one division into two divisions, now named Community Programming and Recreational Programming. This change was determined in discussion with community members, where the main concern was that “having consistent positive role models in the facilities is critical for the outcomes we desire”. In line with this desire, the manager of youth employment and the GVI program manager will now be housed at CBC and MLK (along with the violence prevention coordinators). 

All programs will stay at all the centers (no reduction in recreational offerings or other programs). A particular concern was the program trying to redirect violence from youth gathered at gas stations at night and give them other options — Aaron specifically reassured the common council that these efforts would continue.

In terms of staffing — while there will be reductions in staff, this is b/c of streamlining. There were 9 proposed eliminations, many of whom were middle management (program coordinators, assistant director, etc.) There were 3-5+ additions, which includes new director positions, community center managers, program coordinators, and permanent part time (PPT) positions. To mitigate the effects of the proposed eliminations, they are hoping to hire from within (i.e. the individuals whose positions are being eliminated would have the ability to apply). While HR is understandably concerned about making sure there is an equitable application process, the plan is to list the job posting internally (to the city) at first to give those individuals whose jobs are being eliminated to have a chance before listing to the general public. A final positive of the proposed staffing changes is that there will be higher salaries for many who remain — the goal is to at least meet minimums for all job category pay levels.


  • +300k LaSalle Park Upgrades
  • +50k community grants (this is at the discretion of center managers and will be awarded to groups that want to provide services at the centers)
  • +50k annual community center capital improvements
  • -277k supplies/services

The city’s Office of Community Initiatives (OCI) is adding two new violence prevention coordinators and money for violence reduction efforts ($628k), which will be housed at the CBC and MLK community centers (as mentioned above).

The six initiatives developed and listed in the budget (strategic priorities) for the OCI was formed in response to a budget survey posted on the city website. Although they did mention that the response rate was lower than they would have hoped, there was at least representation from all council districts across 92 people who responded. Some results are displayed in the following infographics:

At this meeting they focused on budget breakdowns for two of the top ranked initiatives: Public Safety & Infrastructure. 

Public Safety

Public safety spending was focused on better community policing & violence prevention efforts. There was a 5.57% decrease from the previous year in spending on police education and training ($169,500 total), which includes psychological services for officers, leadership training, values & ethics in leadership, and bias-free policing best practices such as workshops.

There was a 21.35% increase in body cams and connectivity ($216,000 total), with most of the spending related to data charges to support uploading of video. It is of note that there was no proposal to directly hire emergency mental health providers, just to provide training to existing officers. Councilmembers also expressed interest in pursuing programs like the green light program in Detroit (community-city partnerships with cameras to do real-time policing).


Within infrastructure, roads are always a huge budget priority, and this year there will be $9.5million in additional funding for projects above what the gas/wheel tax provides. This will come mostly from a proposed “neighborhood infrastructure projects bond” which will have $8mil — $7mil available for road projects with $6.3mil for road resurfacing specifically. The plan is to address the highest priority failing streets within the next 3 years and then set up a plan to keep high quality roads going into the future.

For water & wastewater ($7.5mil), the plan is to use internal resources whenever possible but also have to use contractors sometime. Note: this is a major reduction in stormwater and wastewater spending from previous years. Other projects within infrastructure include green infrastructure improvement & public WiFi.

Common Council Meeting 2/10/2020

The meeting started out with some recognitions and celebrations.
First, the council acknowledge the “youth council”, which gives the perspective of the youth of the city and provides recommendations for actions that would improve conditions for youth. Super cool initiative to get people involved in politics!
Secondly, they celebrated the League of Women Voters on the 100th anniversary. The league is non-partisan organization which defends democracy and empowers voters through their education and advocacy. They sponsor candidate forums (which are crucial for connecting voters with their local candidates — we would encourage everyone to attend these) and they host the Vote411 voters guide ( Their guiding vision is a nation “where every person has the desire, right, knowledge and confidence to participate in democracy by voting”. We’re all for that!
The other main part of the meeting was the Mayor’s Annual Address on Economy. You can see all the information here = and our take-aways are as follows:
The population has plateaued as of this past year, but income (per capita $22k/ median household $39) has gone up and poverty has declined — good things! However, we’re still not as good on any measure compared to national average. South Bend has “good debt” as seen in our AA bond rating which compares very well w/in the state. As regards spending, most of the spending in the red is in transportation and parks&rec and 2/3 of strategic spending is on neighborhoods. We are looking forward to a 20-30 min. time save on the South Shore trip from SB —> Chicago.
There was an expected “fiscal curb” in 2020, when the full impact of the circuity breaker tax credits come into play — South Bend was ready for this, but it’s hitting the South Bend Community School Corporation hard … the CSC proposed a referendum to increase taxes to help them get back on track which you will see on your ballots soon.
Vocab feature: Tax increment financing (TIF) is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects in many countries, including the United States. The original intent of a TIF program is to stimulate private investment with a blighted area that has been designated to be in need of economic revitalization. Similar or related value capture strategies are used around the world.
Fun fact: 64k potholes were filled in the last fiscal year!