10/27/2009: Final Budget Hearing

2010 City Civil Budget

Notes from the final Fort Wayne City Council Budget Hearing on October 27, 2009.

Please note: This post only covers the Committee Session discussion.  For the final vote during the Regular Session, click here.

Salary Ordinance:

Mayor’s Advocates – $123,600 keep 7-2 to keep it same, no raise – Pape and Hines against

Council members no raise – all in favor

City Clerk – no raise – 4-5 – raise granted.

Final vote on Salary Ordinance: 6-3 Didier, Brown and Pape.

Hines and Goldner against Traffic Engineering cut of travel by $2,000. 7-2

Cut Natural Gas for Fleet, Harper & Didier – cut will now be by 20,000 – 9-0

Cut long distance, Harper – working on solving problems with obtaining local plates from State BMV. Karen thinks it better for staff to be doing other things than appropriation reallocations. This was one department that caused it to increase. Withdrawn.

Mitch Harper – withdrawing legal ads.

Recording Fees – questioning why the increase from $0 to $54k. A lot of the increase was because of commercial code and updates to residential code. In order to make sure properties were in compliance and not just switching corporations, actions like demolition, weed violations were needing recording. Spent about $10,000 to date, however, next week is the first hearing. Any cases acted on then will be recording. Coming up on end of weed season, large number of weeds will be recorded.

Glynn Hines – how did you arrive at the number? So much per month was figured.

Karen Goldner – looked at possiblity of eliminating fees… have to collect them because of State Codes.  Recorders office is also supported by user fees.  Our commercial code will be giving them a bump in revenue.

John Urbahans before the Council.

0-8 failed.

Councilman Pape – moving to withdraw Communications cut.

(18:36) Councilman Shoaff’s cut to Redevelopment.  Fine of $5,000  a day.  I think it’s important the City recovers the liquidated damages.  We’re not getting the benefits out of the Harrison, nor anything out of the ballpark.  It’s important to fulfill the contract for the community.

Greg Leatherman, Redevelopment is before the Council.  BRE has been making efforts and has about 40% of space possibly spoken for.  Getting ready to go to bank for financing.  Possible to renegotiate the management agreement for the ballpark or enforce the liquidated damages.

Liquidated damages – if we do it now, we are firing BRE as developer.  With no one to step up, they have put a lot of effort in place.  We have talked with other developers and possible partnering arrangements.  To date, we don’t have a project in front of us.

In regards to the renegotiation – we can do it and can do it at a point in time where we think BRE has stopped trying.  Season ended about a month ago, we’re still calculating figures.  It’s a bit premature to do it at this point.

John Shoaff – there are several conditions – it’s not firing them.  It was thought the liquidated damages would be compensation.  Greg – we’re still figuring out if there’s been any incurred expense to the City as a result of not building.  The damages would come from Hardball Capital.  It may not be in the language, but in effect, it would be firing them.

John – when we asked for financial statements, we were told it wasn’t necessary.  I’m inclined not to let them off the hook because we were told they had the means.  $5,000 would be a pretty strong incentive.  It was a talk of liquidated damages.  Both parties understood the City was making an investment of its huge resources.

Glynn Hines – does Greg see in the next year that some development will occur?  Greg – conversations are proving fruitful.  I believe it will start construction in 2010.  Tenants are excited to signing leases, then it’s a matter of converting them to a financing package.  “I see concrete signs with concrete people talking terms.”  Now the conversations are such that the cost of buildout and rents needed are not deterring developers.

Liz Brown calling the question.  Harper, Shoaff, Smith no, Pape abstained,  3-5-1.

Cut is to cut increase by 1.5% except for Fire Union.

Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell is at the table.  Precedence was set with the Fire of giving 1.5% increase.  Are you looking just to cut or are you saying City employees aren’t worth it?  Decision was made last year for no increase.  Next year, chance for raises will be diminished.  An FOP contract will be forthcoming with a 1.5% increase.  Do you want to ratify union contracts, but not giving non-union no raise?  What sort of message do you send?  That if you organize, you’ll get your 1.5% increase.  In emergency, I don’t usually call union people, I call middle managers – that’s who comes when those problems happen.  The economy is tough and they deserve the raise.

Liz Brown – Didn’t have good information, rather shaky information.  It’s not just the two choices – there’s also the option to cut for the looming deficit.  Greg – going forward, Administration will look at budget as it has for last couple of years.  Liz – are you suggesting that once the fire contract was submitted, the Council was bound going forward?  Greg – No.  Question is equitable treatment.  Liz – That contract did come before we had solid budget information.

Karen Goldner – with exception of ice storm and legal fees, same numbers are being improved as in 2009.  If you assume expenses are going to increase, $20 million in cash reserves, spent down in 2011 and 2012 to over $15 million.  Money cut last year went into cash reserve.  If we cut the budget further, it goes into cash reserves.  I completely agree that next year’s budget doesn’t look good for raises.  We’d be telling people they’ll go without raises for three years.  We can afford to do this.  Talked with four employers, one is not sure, everyone else is getting raises.

John Shoaff – The question is how serious is our economic situation.  Raises should be handed out on merit basis, rather than flatly handed out.  Greg  – there is a plan to implement this.

Tim Pape – We’re really just looking to cut the budget which affects the performance of the organization.  At what point does it  impact those considering employ with the City or those already in employment?    We’re just approving the allocation.  The Administration has the power to decide how the money is distributed – how much and to whom.  I am in favor of reducing it to 1.0% rather than nothing as proposed by Councilman Harper.  Regularly hear of ways that money is being saved.

Liz – what is the cash reserve the City likes to have.  Controller Pat Roller – between 7 and 10% of revenues.  Merit increases wouldn’t apply for union contract, rather just the 400 or so.  The 1,400 union employees would be across the board raises.

Pat Roller is advocating that Fort Wayne is one of the most conservative communities in Fort Wayne.  The reason is the employees.  Now we’re putting the cuts on the backs of the employees who have put us into this position.

Cut wage increase of 1.5% except – fails 4-5.

Cut wage increase from 1.5% to 1.0% –

Councilman Harper – you have to make sure when you vote increases, that you don’t build the base too high for future years.

Liz Brown – like splitting the baby.  I don’t agree with Deputy Mayor Purcell that we have hard times ahead.

To reduce it to 1.0%

No – Bender, Didier, Goldner, Hines, Smith

Yes – Brown, Harper, Pape, Shoaff

Fails – 5-4

Mayor’s Neighborhood Advocates

Tom Didier – I appreciate what the advocates do, but I’m responsible for my district.

Marty Bender – Heard from several neighborhood associations that have had difficulty reaching advocates.  Mayor has stated he would not have a problem with cutting two positions.

Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell – I think it made some sense – your cut in your salaries.  Reasons for difficulties could be because of medical leaves.  3-1-1 takes the calls for easy fixes.  You should go out and talk to the partnerships and neighborhood associations.  Without doing that is a huge mistake.

Karen Goldner – Advocates are working with our city’s special populations.  We are the fiscal body, not the manager of employees.  If there is a problem, that’s more management question.

John Shoaff – weren’t these people called neighborhood specialists at one point?  Yes.  Maybe they should be called Mayoral Liaisons.  Been to many neighborhood meetings where citizens felt they were ganged-up on.  Advocates really should be there to communicate between neighborhoods and mayor.

Tim Pape – need to have a better idea of what they do.  They have projects and areas of responsibility.  Should be an ability to manage this a bit better.

Tom Didier – Northwest Area Partnership – Presidents felt more connected before they had the advocates.  Communication needs to be more unbiased to the Mayor.

Tom Smith – The change when we went from specialists to advocates.  It was very clear that they started doing other jobs.  There was a falling away and shift in emphasis.  I have talked to a number of neighborhood presidents and two partnership presidents – they would support cutting the number of positions.  Neighborhoods have survived with this less service.  If they survive tonight, perhaps it’s a wake up call to examine if changes need to be made perhaps in the entire system.

John Shoaff – suggesting they give written reports to the Mayor of “minutes” of the various meetings.

Glynn Hines – there needs to be a matrix or some way of measuring performance.  Some way of looping feedback.

Tom Smith – Many wish the advocates were elsewhere than the 9th floor?  Maybe they should be more oriented to the Council members rather than the Mayor, in terms of spatially.

Vince Robinson does their evaluations.

Final vote:

Yes – Bender, Brown, Didier, Harper, Shoaff

No – Goldner, Hines, Pape, Shoaff

passes 5-4.

Clerk Kennedy is refusing her raise.  The future Clerk is seen as a figure head.  Clerk should be classified as division head or department head.  The position has two departments, 8 in one and 7 in the other.  Collects over $700,000 in revenue per year.

Cut Council part-time position by Pape

Doesn’t know why it was added – sometime in his first term.  Never seen any assessment of how much work is done out of the Council office.  Hypocritical to talk of other departments and yet not look internally at the Council personnel.  No foundation that it’s necessary.

Clerk Kennedy – I tried to find out why her office was audited and not the Council as part of her budget.

John Shoaff – we talked about doing an evaluation last year – maybe we dropped the ball in not doing it?  Uncomfortable cutting it without evaluation.

Tom Smith – there is some evaluation that goes on.  Goes directly to HR policy.  President evaluates Molly, Molly evaluates her assistant.

Tim Pape – evaluation is different than assessment if position is needed.

Liz Brown – we never looked at job descriptions.  We should have done that.  I’m in favor of it because we need to be fiscally responsible.

5-4 in favor of cut.

$60,000 cut in Mayor’s wage line by Harper

Mitch – proliferation in PIO’s and contract lobbyists.

Greg – what message are you wanting to send?  The Mayor is running the office – are you saying you’re not happy with his performance.  The cut would probably be Ozzie Mitson – Legislative Liaison.  I would argue that with the rapid changes, having strength down there is critical.  We would argue against.

Mitch – I wasn’t talking about any specific person.

Tim – are there any discretionary funds that could make this up?

Mitch – oversite of those funds is almost nil, by City Council.  We’re really tied to property taxes, not some of those other funds.

Tim – not sure what it would impact?

5-4 fails.

Final cuts – $149,145.

Final vote

yes – Bender, Goldner, Pape, Shoaff

no – Brown, Didier, Harper, Smith

abstain – Hines

Hines – I strongly oppose the partisan vote to eliminate the Advocates.  Mayor has the ability to run his office because he was elected by the majority of people in the community.

The budget was passed out of committee with no recommendation.

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