2012 Budget: Should Fort Wayne Police Put Off New Equipment & Squad Cars Until 2013?

By Maureen Mespell
By John W. Davis

October 12, 2011 Updated Oct 17, 2011 at 3:36 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – We will wait until 2013.

That seems to be the mantra for the Fort Wayne Police & Fire Departments, as they justify putting off legitimate expenses for another 12 months.

Council members reviewed six city department budgets Wednesday night.

5:30 p.m. Mayor's Office
5:45 p.m. Police/Pension
6:00 p.m. Fleet
6:15 p.m. Traffic Engineering
6:30 p.m. Street Project Management
6:45 p.m. City Controller

The Mayor's Office, the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Fort Wayne City Controller's Office endured the toughest questions.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has proposed a $180M budget that will keep spending the same as the previous three years.

Nearly $53M of the $180M budget is allotted to the Fort Wayne Police Department.

Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York told council his budget would be cut by 1% in 2012, compared to 2011.

To do that, Fort Wayne Police will only spend $20,000 dollars on capital improvements, which means they will sacrifice millions in new equipment.

Under the cutbacks, FWPD will not purchase any new squad cars in 2012.

But in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, FWPD will ask a combined $16 million dollars to replace equipment and squad cars.

However, York said FWPD will be just fine because the department has one of newest fleets in the country.

"Ran the numbers, talked to the officers who were requesting equipment and they feel very comfortable that they can go 12 months without these things," explained York.

"I'll trust the police chief and the fire chief etc. They say you know we can get by this year without it. I'm gonna accept that at face value. We're just gonna have to wait and see," said Fort Wayne 1st District Republican Councilman Tom Smith.

"If we have less revenue in the next year... or the next year or the year after that then we'll have to address those issues in those budgets," said Fort Wayne 2nd District Councilwoman Karen Goldner.

"I don't think it makes sense to dramatically reduce services so that we can buy new police cars and that really is going to be the trade off," Goldner explained.

City Council will go over proposed budget cuts next week.

Council members are expected to approve the 2012 budget as early as Tuesday, October 24.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Should all major expenditures that the City Fort Wayne spends be previously budgeted for?

That's the question of a contentious issue facing Fort Wayne City Council as they tackle the 2012 budget.

Council held a 2012 budget public hearing Tuesday night at Citizens Square.

1st District Democratic City Council Candidate Steve Shafer was the first person to address council about the 2012 budget.

Shafer said that the Fort Wayne Fire Department should be allocated more money so that can bring on new recruits in 2012, instead of pushing all new hiring off until 2013.

Shafer also proposed that council members accept $1 yearly salaries and $100 per diem at every council meeting.

Currently, council members are paid $21,414 a year.

Shafer's proposal would lower salaries to about $4801 a year.

Representatives from the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance ad the Northwest Area Partnership also address council members.

Respectively explained why economic development and neighborhood initiatives deserve more funding.

However, the contentious issue surrounded the approval of $485,000 dollars to renovate Fort Wayne Fire Station Number 1, which is located in Downtown Fort Wayne.

Republican Councilwoman Liz Brown said the additional spending that will end up a part of the 2011 budget spending, should have been previously budgeted in 2010.

"If you know you're going to have a project coming up and we knew that last year we were going to renovate, the fire station no. 1 downtown on Main Street then put the money in the budget. So it's a true budget so we all know what we're spending," said Fort Wayne At-Large Republican City Councilwoman Liz Brown.

Brown said the city is sort of cheating the budget process by having major improvements approved at the last minute.

"If you budget doesn't make it, then you either tell us you have to take it out of cash reserves, which is what the Mayor is asking us to do for next year, or you cut some things. You prioritize and he hasn't done that," Brown continued.

Brown added that this appropriation and possible $900,000 appropriation in the near future concerning ash tree removal and replacement, shows that Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry's budget are not really flat when it comes to actual spending.

She told Indiana's NewsCenter that the Fort Wayne needs to set a true budget, prioritize what's important and then make cuts.

Brown asked the question whether road repairs are more important than employing the same number of city workers.

Meanwhile, Democratic Councilman Tim Pape said Brown's view of budgeting is "poppycock."

Pape explained that a budget is a "prediction" of next year's spending.

He said there should always be room for changes to account for special circumstances.

Pape said the real story that Brown is not sharing with the public is that Fort Wayne received a federal energy grant to match 50% of the fire station renovations, which will end up saving Fort Wayne $485,000 in the long run.

"The Mayor's team steered its course differently because it saw an opportunity to have a 50% cost reduction on a needed and planned for improvement and the majority of council on a bi-partisan fashion agreed to it," rebutted Fort Wayne 5th District Democratic Councilman Tim Pape.

"The budgeting that she's alleging is not something that any smart or intelligent family, business, or government would do or does. It's simply poppycock," Pape continued.

Pape added that Mayor Henry typically under spends the city's budget by $3 to $4 million a year, so city leaders have enough money to requests that are deemed necessary and approved for funding by a majority of council members.

Another six budget hearings will take place Wednesday, October 12.

5:30 p.m. Mayor's Office
5:45 p.m. Police/Pension
6:00 p.m. Fleet
6:15 p.m. Traffic Engineering
6:30 p.m. Street Project Management
6:45 p.m. City Controller

The Mayor's Office, City Controller, and Police Department are likely to face the toughest questions from council members.

Below is a running tally of previous stories recapping City Council's 2012 budget hearings.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Fort Wayne City Council held their third day of 2012 Budget Hearings Thursday night at Citizens Square.

Indiana's NewsCenter has discovered that when it comes to rising health care costs, the City of Fort Wayne might be in the same boat as the rest of us.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry presented a 2012 budget last month with projected spending at $180.4 million dollars.

11 of the city's 29 departments were able to tighten their budgets enough that will spend less money in 2012, compared to 2011.

"He (Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry) instructed the divisions and the department heads to really take a look at your budget. Make it lean," explained Fort Wayne Public Information Officer Frank Suarez.

"You know you're going to have these fixed costs that you really can't do much about because we have to provide health care insurance for employees, much like INC does. He told them you gotta make some cuts," Suarez continued.

However, for 18 of the city's 29 departments, cuts to areas like capital improvements and supply funds were not enough to offset rising health care costs.

Those departments are asking for 1% to 3% increases, which department heads said are primarily tied to rising health care costs.

Democratic At-Large City Council Vice President John Shoaff and Republican 4th District Council President Mitch Harper said cuts are nice.

But both challenge the city to continue maintaining the upkeep city assets and accounting for expensive issues like cutting down and replacing ash trees because of the emerald ash borer.

"We need to have fiscal health but we need to have physical health that is we own a lot of buildings, a lot of parks, we have to make sure we take care of them," Shoaff emphasized.

"I think the council has raised some concerns on their part that this is a budget that is missing some key parts to it," said Harper.

"And therefore may not be an entirely accurate reflection of what they intend spending to be next year," continued Harper.

Harper went on to say that one of those "key parts" is the notion that the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department will ask for extra money that is not previously budgeted to cut down and replace ash trees in 2012.

Harper explained that the Parks Department recently made a similar request a few weeks ago for extra money that was not budgeted in 2011 to cut down and replace ash trees this year.

He said that is just one of the issues that has him questioning whether the $180 million dollar budget is set up to look a little bit "leaner" than true spending expectations.

Budget hearings will continue next week.

All proposed cuts are due by Tuesday, October 18.

The budget will be approved by the Fort Wayne City Council before the end of October.

----------------------

It's your money but Fort Wayne City Council will make the final decision on how to spend it.

Indiana's NewsCenter attended Day 2 of the 2012 Budget Hearings at Citizens Square.

The Parks & Recreation Department, Weights & Measures Department and the Fire Department / Fire Pension Board made brief presentations Wednesday night.

The Parks and Fire Departments are spending less in their 2012 budgets than they did in their 2011 budgets.

The Weights & Measures budget, a department that inspects all commercial weighing and measuring devices in Fort Wayne for accuracy, is seeking a budget increase of 1% because of rising health care costs.

Meanwhile, we've been polling council members all week.

None of them want to raise property taxes.

However, council members are still divided on how to balance the city's $180 million dollar budget.

Democratic 2nd District Councilwoman Karen Goldner has authored a proposal that has support from several council members.

Goldner said the city should use about three million from the city's cash reserves savings account, instead of raising property taxes by 2.9%.

However, Republican At-Large Councilwoman Liz Brown said the city should not touch that cash reserves savings account.

Brown said if the city knows they will end up spending less than their budget in 2012, they should cut the budget now.

Republican At-Large Councilman Marty Bender told Indiana's NewsCenter that looking at cuts is an important part of budgeting.

But Bender said in his eight years on council, this is the first year he has seen so many departments - budgeting less than the year before.

"I don't see a really problem with using them. I would like to limit the expenditure of those cash reserves. They are reserves for a reason, in case we really need them," Bender explained.

"But I don't want to raise the property taxes either. So if that's a way we can do it and keep from raising taxes, that's okay with me," Bender continued.

Bender said, at this time, he believes departments heads and the city is doing a good job implementing cuts.

Meanwhile, Democratic 6th District Councilman Glynn Hines supports Goldner's idea.

"I think the citizens prefer that we not raise their taxes, number one. So any option to that is what we have to explore, whether it be a sales tax or something like that," Hines said.

"But when you have a reserve, I think it's just like your personal savings account. You dip into your savings account in order to keep the taxes flat," Hines explained.

Hines said even if the three million dollars is used from the city's cash reserves savings account, the city will still have more than $20 million dollars in the bank for emergencies.

Meanwhile, six budget hearings will take place on Thursday at Citizens Square.

5:30 p.m. Redevelopment
5:45 p.m. Internal Audit
6:00 p.m. Law
6:15 p.m. Cable
6:30 p.m. City Clerk/Council
6:45 p.m. Parking

Another six budget hearings will take place Wednesday, October 12.

5:30 p.m. Mayor's Office
5:45 p.m. Police/Pension
6:00 p.m. Fleet
6:15 p.m. Traffic Engineering
6:30 p.m. Street Project Management
6:45 p.m. City Controller

Proposed budget cuts will be due on Tuesday, October 18.

The budget could be approved as early as Tuesday, October 25.

----------------------

Another heated debate took place at the Fort Wayne City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The outcome... Fort Wayne City Council will only review the budgets from city departments that are asking for an increase in their portion of the 2012 budget.

Meanwhile, lines have been drawn over using cash reserves versus only making cuts to balance Fort Wayne's $180M 2012 budget.

According to City Controller Pat Roller, the city has underspent the budget by about five million dollars since Mayor Tom Henry has been in office.

That's not the issue.

It is how the city should account for and use those savings that has city council divided.

Democrat Karen Goldner said those cash savings or reserves are the reason she is against raising property taxes by 2.9% in 2012.

Goldner's idea, insert cash reserves into the budget in place of a tax increase, with the idea that the city will end up saving millions by the end of the year, by underspending.

If that were to happen, the cash savings that were inserted into budget, would be put back into cash savings the following year.

"Save little bits of money throughout the whole year and that adds up to about $3 million dollars a year," said Democrat Fort Wayne 2nd District Councilwoman Karen Goldner.

"That's been every year for the last three years. So, I'm very comfortable with reducing the (tax) levy by that $3 million dollars so that we can not take in more taxpayer money than we need," Goldner explained.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has gone on record saying he supports Goldner's idea.

However, Republican Liz Brown said Goldner's idea is not going far enough.

Brown said if the city is going to end up saving millions again next year by underspending, they should cut the budget now.

She said city leaders should look at the budget line by line and figure out exactly where millions in past saving came from.

At that point, the budget should be cut appropriately to reflect those savings.

"If we know we've underspent this year and we've underspent every year by two or three million, why are you asking us for the same budget as last year and two years ago, when we've always underspent by two million," said Republican Fort Wayne At-Large City Councilwoman Liz Brown.

"Why didn't you cut the budget by two or three million and not even ask for the cash reserves. Keep it there let it earn interest and save it and then if a catastrophe occurs, then take the money out for a true need," continued Brown.

Budget hearings will continue Wednesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Citizens Square.

All proposed budget cuts from city council members are due in two weeks.

City Council is expected to approve the 2012 budget on Tuesday, October 25.




What are your thoughts CLICK HERE to leave us a "Your2Cents” comment.

Want to be in the know for the next weather event, the next school closing or the next big breaking news story?

TextCaster alerts from Indiana's NewsCenter are your defining source for instant information delivered right to your cell phone and email. It's free, easy and instant. Sign-Up Now!

Powered by Summit City Chevrolet



© Copyright 2014, A Granite Broadcasting Station. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.