Firefighters Union Official Makes Plea To Mayor: "Show Me The Money"

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 9, 2013 Updated Oct 9, 2013 at 5:50 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- The Fort Wayne firefighters union has a beef with Mayor Tom Henry's Administration.

It's over how new public safety income tax dollars are being spent by city government.

The union's leaders feel a sense of urgency to get answers to their questions, primarily because the new 2014 budget has to be passed in less than two weeks.

After that it's essentially too late to challenge the spending plan.

The Henry Administration sold city council on adopting a new public safety local option income tax, generating $4.7 million annually.

$2.7 million is being used to hire 20 new police officers and 15 new firefighters.

But the Fort Wayne Firefighters Union Local 124 wants to know where the other $2-million is going, as well as more than $1-million the union claims the tax is raising in the last quarter of this year.

In addition, the city wants to trim the department's overtime budget in 2014, though the union insists new recruits won't come on board and help with staffing until at least the middle of next year.

" They've cut the overtime budget by the same amount, $1.2 million, and that's just going to mean fewer firefighters on the streets every day," said Scott Hinton, the treasurer for Local 124.

" We've had multiple meetings with them. I know they presented their arguments to city council over the summer months, but we've decided that the path we've chosen is the one that's right for the community. We feel it's right for the fire department and we're looking forward to a bright future," said John Perlich, a spokesperson for the Henry Administration.

Perlich didn't respond directly to the firefighters concerns.

The Henry Administration maintains it has gone over this stuff with the firefighters union before, that the union simply doesn't like the answers it is getting.

2nd District City Council Member Russell Jehl says he has been told that a significant amount of the extra money generated by the income tax will be used to pay current police and firefighter salaries, which conceivably frees up other cash for others purposes, such as street and road projects.

The final resolution will be October 22nd, when the new budget has to be passed.




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