FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne City Council members gave their preliminary approval Tuesday to the citys proposed $147 million budget for next year, setting the spending plan up for final approval next week.
Four members had proposed a total of about $500,000 in cuts to the property-tax-supported general fund, but of those proposed cuts, only $37,576 were approved, less than three-hundredths of 1 percent of the $142,088,710 total.
An additional $450,000 was cut from the separate, $23 million Community Economic Development Income Tax fund in a compromise with Mayor Tom Henrys administration.
In June, the council approved an increase in the local income tax to pay for more police officers and firefighters, for maintenance of city parks and to address the estimated $60 million backlog of road projects the city has been unable to do because of falling gas tax revenue.
The administration had proposed borrowing $30 million to do all the projects in five years and paying the money back using the new income taxes over 10 years. But Councilmen Mitch Harper, R-4th, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, proposed spreading the projects over six years and limiting spending in other areas to avoid borrowing and the associated interest costs.
At the council table Tuesday, City Controller Pat Roller agreed to Jehls proposal to cut $250,000 a year from the Front Door Fort Wayne program and $200,000 a year from the Bike Fort Wayne program in return for an eight-year loan.
We can still accomplish all we wanted to do in the time frame we wanted to do it in, Roller said. I think this is a good compromise.
Officials want to move away from their habit of borrowing on a regular basis and instead pay as they go for projects. This compromise, said John Crawford, R-at large, gets the city to pay-as-you-go in eight years but still allows the entire backlog of road work to be done in five years.
John Urbahns, the citys director of community development, said the cuts will mean fewer projects such as designating bike lanes on city streets and sprucing up entryways into the city.
Of the $37,576 in cuts to the general fund expenditures, $32,576 was agreed to by the administration. An administrative assistant position in the human resources department had previously been cut but was inadvertently included in the budget.
The only other proposed cut, of $5,000 from the mayors office for marketing the citys 311 system, barely passed 5-4. Crawford said the number of people using 311 grows every year, so marketing is unneeded. Tom Didier, R-3rd, objected to the cut, saying that anytime you stop marketing something, it falls by the wayside. Crawford, Jehl, Harper, John Shoaff, D-at large, and Marty Bender, R-at large, voted yes.
A Crawford and Bender proposal to cut one position from the three-person internal audit department failed 5-4, with Crawford and Bender joined by Jehl and Didier supporting the move to save $64,000. City officials said the cut would mean they would spend more than what was saved on hiring outside auditors.