City Council Notes – 1/13/2009

The Fort Wayne City Council

The Fort Wayne City Council met this evening in Committee and Regular Session.  Councilman Tim Pape was absent.  New committee and seat assignments greeted the Council members.  What will be the most interesting to watch will be the Finance Committee with Chairman Glynn Hines and Co-Chair Liz Brown.  In six months, which I believe is just about the time of the Budget Hearings, the Chairman and Co-Chair switch places.  Another interesting pair will be the City Utilities Committee with Chairman Mitch Harper and Co-Chair Tim Pape.

At the start of the Committee Session, Clerk Sandy Kennedy stated that she had provided the Council with the information they requested the previous week.  She went on to say that she felt it shouldn’t be discussed any further because it was going from the Parking Amnesty Ordinance into the Parking Authority for which nothing has been brought to Council.  The handouts were, “Violations Bureau Revenue and Expenditures Report for 2004 Thru 2008″ and the second” and  “Violations Bureau Report For Cases Filed In Court – Parking Violations”.  

There was only the one Resolution introduced and discussed in Committee Session.  This concerns an Economic Revitalization Area designation for 620 East Berry Street.  It was introduced and passed out of Committee Session with a “Do Pass”.

In the Regular Session, the Parking Amnesty ordinance and aforementioned ERA Resolution were the only ordinances up for passage.  The final vote on the Parking Amnesty was 7 ayes and 1 naye – Councilwoman Liz Brown.  Many ordinances were introduced tonight.  Of particular note:

AN ORDINANCE requiring monthly financial reports to Common Council

It will add the following to the City Code:

37.04 – Monthly Financial Reports to Common Council.

A. That the City Controller shall cause to be prepared and transmitted a monthly financial report to members of the Common Council;

B. The monthly financial report shall include the total expenditures of the major funds of the City for the prior month, total revenues by source received by the City of and allocated to the major funds of the City, and year-to-date totals of revenue and expenditures by the major funds.

C. The monthly report shall be transmitted to members of the Common Council by the 21st day of the month following the month which is the subject of the report.

This idea has been talked about in several Council meetings, most notably during the budget hearings.  In fact, I can remember at least two meetings where it was requested of City Controller Pat Roller to provide the monthly statements, but nothing has ever come of the request.  The thinking is that if the Council is responsible for the budget, they need to know where the City stands on a month-to-month basis.  

There are two things that I feel are missing from this ordinance.  

1.  I don’t see anything about budget figures being included to know where the various departments are in regards to their target.
2.  Another one of those talked about areas or requests that has never seemed to be complied with is a list of contracts or expenditures between $50,000 and $99,999.  This came into play with the High Performance Government Network. 

Council President Tom Smith began the Council member comment portion of the meeting by reading a prepared statement.  He cited several challenges the City faces in the coming year.  He also asked that the Finance Committee (Hines and Brown) begin meeting with the Administration now to help with the budget process.  There were also some other interesting statements, including Councilwoman Liz Brown’s explanation of her “no” vote on the Parking Amnesty which sparked a fire under Clerk Kennedy.  Here is what was said:

Councilwoman Brown: The reason [for her vote against the Parking Amnest] is I think we need to do a better job of handling all of our budget.  That particular department raises and spends over half a million dollars – not in property tax dollars.  Those are revenues from tickets and fines and things like that.  In terms of the dollars that go into the City’s General Fund after budget, it’s only about $35,000 [at this point, Clerk Kennedy spun around in her chair to face Councilwoman Brown] for last year.  So… that’s after the budget, not…

Clerk Kennedy: No

Councilwoman Brown: When you go over budget…

Clerk Kennedy:  Look at your figures that I gave you tonight…

Councilwoman Brown: I did.  I did the math.  If your budget is $580,000, and you only spent $500,000, $80,000 goes back into the City’s General Fund.  After that the $610,000 brought in, $30,000 in ticket revenues… My point is, that’s not the issue, it’s not the math, my point is that all these departments should be looked at whether it’s City Utilities, whether it’s Parking and I think the point is, we want to make sure we have a reason for why we raise rates, we have a reason why we’re raising ticket prices – if we’re going to raise ticket prices and why we’re not enforcing ticket violations.

I’m not sure exactly what Councilwoman Brown’s thinking was.  According to the information Clerk Kennedy provided, there wasn’t a listed year that returned less than $100,000 to the General Fund, sometimes as high as $189,000.


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