Fort Wayne, Ind. – Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and his Fiscal Policy Group today outlined a framework of ideas to save the community money and bring additional revenue to the City of Fort Wayne.
Mayor Henry created the Fiscal Policy Group in 2012. Since that time, the group's been tasked with gaining a full understanding of fiscal conditions and identifying financial options available to the City to help meet fiscal challenges in 2014 and beyond.
Fort Wayne is the first in city in Indiana to assemble a team of local and state experts, members of City Council and City staff to develop strategies to combat looming budget issues.
Property tax caps implemented by the Indiana General Assembly have made it more difficult for cities to meet demands and expectations. The impact of property tax caps has been in effect since 2009, and the result has been a loss of $53 million in revenue to the City.
However, through strong fiscal management, leadership and bipartisan efforts, the City's been able to weather the storm and build a healthy savings account. But, due to continued constraints on the budget because of the tax caps, the City's had to continue to utilize its savings account to fund essential services.
The Fiscal Policy Group recently completed its final meeting. A framework of ideas has been developed and can be accomplished while maintaining services that citizens have come to expect.
Highlights of Fiscal Policy Group's framework of ideas:
*Add academy class for Police and Fire – 20 new police officers and 15 new firefighters
*Fund needed, annual capital improvements for streets, roads, and parks facilities
*Use portion of Legacy funds; $1 million per year for five years for neighborhood street and road improvements
*Revise benefits package that employees receive to better align with benefits offered in the private sector
*Move fire protection fees from property tax bill to City Utilities bill
*Adopt local option income taxes – Result would be increase in public safety workforce and additional property tax relief
*Reduce operating expenses by $5 million and maintain a cash reserve of 7% of operating revenue ($10 million)
One of the tools the Fiscal Policy Group reviewed was a "Community Fiscal Priorities Survey" that was conducted for the City by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics. The complete survey is available at http://www.cityoffortwayne.org/smartgov/
*68% of respondents believe the City is headed in the right direction
*Respondents are happy with the services they receive
*There are few, if any, services that a large percentage of respondents would like to see the City stop providing
*Respondents have concerns about new taxes
"I want to thank the Fiscal Policy Group for the commitment and professionalism that each member displayed through this process. The framework that's been presented offers a meaningful alternative to addressing the fiscal issues that must be dealt with now and in the future," said Mayor Henry. "We know that difficult decisions will have to be made. I'm confident we'll meet these challenges and the result will be a stronger, more united City."
The Mayor's office and the Fiscal Policy Group will conduct public meetings in an effort for business leaders and citizens to gain a better understanding of the framework of ideas. Dates and times of the meetings will be released soon.
In addition, City Controller Pat Roller will appear before City Council on March 12, 19 and 26 to provide an overview of the work of the Fiscal Policy Group. Following the presentations, City Council will begin the process of evaluating and discussing the framework of ideas that have been presented. The Mayor's administration and City Council will work to make final decisions in the May-June timeframe.
Fiscal Policy Group members included:
*Mark Becker, Fort Wayne Deputy Mayor
*Martin Bender, Fort Wayne City Council
*Ben Campbell, STAR Bank
*Dr. John Crawford, Fort Wayne City Council
*Larry DeBoer, Ph.D., Purdue University
*Jason O'Neill, Policy Analytics
*Ian Rolland, Retired, Lincoln National Corporation
*Pat Roller, City of Fort Wayne Controller
*Bill Sheldrake, Policy Analytics
*John Shoaff, Fort Wayne City Council
*Tom Smith, Fort Wayne City Council
*John Stafford, Community Research Institute at IPFW
*Pat Sullivan, Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce
*Brent Wake, City of Fort Wayne