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South Bend Mayor Mueller says $13.3 million in ARP funding in limbo after salary ordinance change


South Bend Mayor James Mueller says $13.3 million dollars in American Rescue Plan funding is in limbo due to the substitute salary ordinance the Common Council passed for the 2022 budget earlier this week.

In a statement, Mueller said the ordinance eliminated 12 new positions and “dismantled” the city’s ability to implement affordable housing, workforce development and small business programs funded by ARP dollars.

According to a document released by the city, the substitute ordinance also discarded city efforts to address pay equity and competitiveness.

And the administration says the Department of Administration and Finance will cost “at least $100,00 more in salaries” because a planned restructuring was cut.

“I hope Council members who supported the budget will take another look and provide the resources necessary to deliver these important services for our residents," Mueller said in a statement.

The administration’s original bill would have raised the salary for all hourly city employees 2.5 percent, significantly raised the salary caps for some administrative positions and restructured several departments, creating 16 new positions and eliminating five others.

But council member Sharon McBride said Monday that the council never received “substantive” job descriptions for the new positions despite repeated requests.

“We asked other people to provide information of specific job duties, and we are not sure of what is really going to be done or asked for,” McBride said. “To not have clarity of what those job duties are is very significant.”

The council amended the ordinance to give 2.5 percent raises across the board and eliminate any new positions that haven’t already been approved by the council, like the director of the community police review board.

It ultimately passed 6 to 3, with council members Troy Warner, Sheila Niezgodski and Rachel Tomas Morgan voting against it. 

According to the document, the changed salary ordinance means the city will indefinitely delay expanding two Home Repair Assistance programs because the two Housing Program Manager positions were cut.

It will also not implement a Home Buying Assistance program and said programs to support new housing construction will be indefinitely delayed.

Because the city no longer has the Workforce Development Manager position, the administration said it will have a “difficult time” expanding programs on solar panel installation, energy efficiency auditors, reducing or eliminating barriers to employment and expanding work with construction and trades.

Due to the lack of an Assistant Director of Opportunity, the administration said it will be unable to coordinate several programs supporting small businesses.

And the administration said the lack of a new Neighborhood Grant Specialist position means the city will have a harder time coordinating, finding and applying for federal grants on issues including lead remediation, affordable housing and economic development.

The document also said the substituted ordinance discarded city efforts to address pay equity and competitiveness.

The deputy director of human resources, for example, would have received an 11.49 percent increase. The director of community investment would have gotten 9 percent, the director of facilities and grounds would have gotten 9.47 percent and the director of planning would have gotten an 18.59 percent increase.

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.