SOUTH BEND -- Common Council members and Mayor Pete Buttigieg were mostly on the same page Monday when they arrived for the final meeting of the city's 2013 budget process.
After working since March on their budget priorities, they just had to iron out some relatively small differences before council members approved the $287 million spending plan.
"I think this is a good model for how to move forward, because what it came down to today was the last half of a percent of the budget to work on," said Buttigieg, who also complimented council member Karen White, chairwoman of the Personnel and Finance Committee, for shepherding the process.
For example, because of council concerns, the mayor removed a $150,000 plan to create a "youth engagement" program. "I think everyone wants to see the youth engagement happen," he said. "There are just some concerns about the structure, so I want to be responsive to that. We'll work on that."
Council members also deleted a couple of other line items during Monday's meeting.
They removed $110,000 in funding left over from Project Future, a business development and retention program that shut down at the end of 2011, and $42,000 to pay a part-time director of community outreach in the mayor's office.
Buttigieg had proposed rededicating the Project Future money toward programs administered by the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County to create and retain jobs in South Bend. The community outreach director would have replaced a position that's currently open in the mayor's office to make the office "more accessible to underserved communities," Buttigieg said.
Council member Oliver Davis, D-6th, said the council can revisit those programs early next year.
Council members aren't against the mayor's concepts, Davis said, but they have different opinions about how the programs could be set up to maximize the benefits to city residents.
"We had about 18 different meetings to review every single aspect of this city," Davis said. "I'm really proud of the administration, and I'm proud of our council for taking the time to go detail by detail, bit by bit, to make sure that we could come up with a budget that we could, by and large, live with for the next year."
Two mayoral priorities that remained in the budget are $320,000 to establish a 311 call center to handle residents' phone calls in one central location and $1 million to address vacant, abandoned housing in the city.
Buttigieg said the 311 center will draw employees from existing departments and won't add to the city's payroll, but it will help the city answer residents' questions in one or two steps instead of five or six.
"It's gonna let us improve customer service," the mayor said of the 311 line, "it's gonna let us gather data that makes us a better government."
The $1 million for vacant, abandoned housing is twice the amount dedicated to the problem in the current year's budget.
Council members also approved a new two-year contract for South Bend firefighters Monday.
First-class firefighters will receive a 3 percent pay increase to bring their pay in line with that of the city's first-class police officers, who will receive a 2.5 percent raise under their new two-year contract.
Staff writer Kevin Allen: