FORT WAYNE – For years, the numbers have been included almost as an afterthought in the budgets city officials prepare each fall, and for years, those numbers have been largely ignored by City Council members.
Now, the money the city intends to spend on capital items – such as bulletproof vests and street repairs – will be in its own capital improvement plan, a separate 5-year look at what the city intends to buy and build.
Council members got their first look at the inaugural capital improvement plan on Tuesday, as Pat Roller, city controller, presented the 48-page book for their perusal.
Previously, It didnt get a lot of attention, Roller said. And quite frankly, we didnt have a lot of resources to put toward it.
But with an increase in the city income tax and the administrations intent to move from borrow-and-spend to pay-as-you-go, officials said a plan for how money will be spent becomes critical.
It also gives us more accountability and more tracking, Roller said. Its giving us a better picture of all the dollars being put toward city infrastructure.
Previously, five years worth of capital spending plans were included in the citys proposed operating budget, but council members were busy looking at the year they had to vote on. This way, Roller said, all the citys capital spending can be considered at once, to ensure it is coordinated and well-planned. The proposed 2014 plan calls for $45.3 million in capital spending.
Having the plan also allows the council and the public to see how money is being spent, officials said.
Roller said that in 2012, the city did not buy any new vehicles, a move that saved almost $7 million. But because vehicle purchases are spread throughout several departmental budgets, it was hard for anyone to see that there had been a significant cost cut.
Council members praised the move, but some had sharp questions about the plan for allocating county economic development income tax money to pay for the $52 million backlog in street repairs facing the city.
The CEDIT plan calls for borrowing $30 million to be repaid over 10 years in combination with new income tax money to complete the five years of backlogged work. Borrowing, however, appears to fly in the face of the pay-as-you-go policy the city promised in return for the higher income tax approved in June.
The idea was especially galling to Russ Jehl, R-2nd, who had proposed an alternative plan to the income tax hike, which called for some borrowing.
The discussion was, Thats a terrible idea, Jehl said. Whats changed between June and September?
Roller said the difference was that the CEDIT money would go only toward the backlog, not for operating expenses, and that the backlog of street repairs council members had so decried could be erased in five years and paid for in 10.
Since council members were viewing the capital improvement plan for the first time at their meeting Tuesday night, they voted unanimously to hold off approving it until they could give it further scrutiny. The plan can be seen on the citys website at www.cityoffortwayne.org/smartgov.