Tonight’s Fort Wayne City Council meeting will see the next installment in the continuing budget hearing which is quickly approaching the length of a Wagner Ring Cycle. This simile also works as there have been long moments of so-so surrounded by great moments of drama and intensity. “When Wagner’s good, he’s good. When he’s GREAT, he’s really Stupendous!” All this fun may come to an end, however, as this could be last evening for the hearing. Â
Suggested changes or cuts were to have been submitted by last Friday. Â These will be considered tonight. Â If you are interested in listening to the hearings, I have added recordings of them here, on the right side. Â It is broken down by night, then by department with a complete recording for that night being available. Â Where possible, I have added links to some of the presentations made. Â The 2009 City Budget may be downloaded here.
Right from the beginning, several council members took issue with a flat 2009 Budget being submitted by the Administration when a severe deficit is projected for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Â
A letter was sent to departmental heads throughout the Administration asking for suggestions to trim three percent from their respective budgets. Â As of last Thursday, nothing had been received in response.
At this point, a three percent cut from the budget has been suggested and was echoed by several council members, which would result in approximately a $4.5 Million reduction in the budget. Â If this is approved, council will vote to approve the budget with a 3 percent reduction and send it back to the Administration to make those cuts. Â According to Councilman Tom Smith, once this is voted on, it cannot be vetoed by the Administration.
Another option is a line by line examination with cuts made here and there. Â This is perhaps the most unrealistic as it would be too time consuming and in the final analysis would probably prove more damaging as the council wouldn’t know what could be cut without a reduction in services to taxpayers and what could be left untouched. Â
A third option is to do nothing, approve the budget as is and let the chips fall where they will. Â This seems to be the choice favored by the Administration. Â It is not clear why they have made this decision. Â There is some feeling that the State Legislature may enact a “House Bill 1002” or a sequel to HB 1001 which put the Property Tax Circuit Breakers into effect. Â Â Whatever the reason, doing nothing puts the City in the rather awkward position of being reactive rather than proactive. Â Some would argue it also shows a lack of leadership from the Administration.
A poll on this website indicates 41% of respondents (24 of 58) feel the City should cut the budget by three percent while 29% (17 of 58) felt more than three percent should be cut. Â Surprisingly, no cuts at all were favored by 17% or 10 voters.
Another option is to put off deciding anything tonight, but this would mean an almost three week delay in approving the budget as there will not be another council meeting until November 18th. Â This is due to Election Day and Veteran’s Day. Â Whatever the choice made, it should be an interesting evening!