City outlines ‘highlights’ of proposed 2015 budget

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry unveils the proposed 2015 budget.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Mayor Tom Henry and City Controller Pat Roller discussed the proposed 2015 Fort Wayne budget at a press conference Thursday.

2015 Budget | See the full 116-page PDF

The city says the balanced budget for 2015 will continue the administration’s commitment to providing services to city residents and businesses while continuing to position the city for future investments.

“We’re seeing unprecedented momentum in the City of Fort Wayne,” said Mayor Henry. “With strong leadership and a commitment to fiscal responsibility, our budget positions our community to be able to invest in the future as we continue to enhance public safety, streets and roads, and our parks. By working together, we’re making a meaningful difference.”

The city highlighted the following in the proposed 2015 budget:

  • Academy class for the Fort Wayne Police Department (18 recruits)
  • Neighborhood street, road, and sidewalk improvement projects
  • Improvement/maintenance projects in City Parks
  • Expenses unique to 2015 are $5.5 million and include an extra pay period due to the calendar structure of 2015 and costs for the 2015 municipal election
  • Utilize the State of Indiana’s allowable tax levy to assist in preserving funding to provide essential services

“The City of Fort Wayne provides services our residents have come to expect like responsive public safety services from our police and fire departments, plowing snow from our streets around the clock, and ongoing maintenance and improvements to our award-winning parks,” said Roller. “However, those services come at a cost. This budget strikes the necessary balance between funding services and managing our revenues.”

City leaders say property tax caps and other financial challenges will hamper the city’s ability to take in revenue, which has left them asking departments to be as lean as possible.

In 2015, the extra pay period is expected to cost the city $2.8 million while municipal elections will cost $400,000. Also, Roller said income taxes have initially been reported as $2.3 million lower than projected. That number is being reevaluated and the city should hear back with the final results by October 1.

“We’ve had to go back to our departments and ask them to continue to cut budgets,” Henry said. “In many cases they would have personnel retire and we’re asking them not to fill those positions.”

When asked where the city will have to cut, Roller said, “Unfortunately it’s usually the capitol projects that sometimes take the hit.”

The Public Works Department has seen one of the most significant decreases in its budget. The proposed 2015 budget had it down $533,593 from 2014. City spokesman John Perlich said a big chunk of that is because they engineered a high-percentage of contracts in the last budget and now those contracts are ready to be constructed.

On the flip side, city leaders say two percent employee pay increases have been budgeted.

The mayor’s administration hopes to slightly raise property taxes on homes under $90,000 in assessed value.  A city spokesman said those affected would likely see a property tax bump of about nine dollars a year.

On Tuesday, city council preliminarily approved spending $1.7 million dollars in Legacy funds to help pay for high snow removal costs from last winter. Roller said the city doesn’t plan to ask for Legacy funds toward upcoming winter costs.

The proposed budget will be presented to the city council on Tuesday, September 23.

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