Brown: Plans and strategies must focus on ‘saving’ rather than ‘spending’ of Light Lease Funds

Liz Brown campaign sign.

News release from the Liz Brown campaign:

Plans and Strategies Must Focus on ‘Saving’ Rather than ‘Spending’ Light Lease Funds
Financial Security and Stability Should be the (Lasting Legacy’ from the City of Fort Wayne Light Lease Community Trust Fund

Today City Councilwoman Liz Brown detailed her plans, ideas and guiding principles for use of the City of Fort Wayne Light Lease Community Trust Fund and settlement proceeds.

“We are lucky and should be grateful for the foresight of our City’s past leaders in establishing the City of Fort Wayne Light Lease Community Trust Fund. While the end resulted in contentious litigation, the City is fortunate to be faced with the issue at hand. At the same time, there are critical misconceptions around the facts and circumstances of the City of Fort Wayne Light Lease Community Trust Fund that must be clarified. First, the Fund’s balance is currently about $38,000,000. While that is certainly a large sum of money, it is far short of the $77,000,000 continually talked about and reported. Secondly, even if the settlement is approved by the applicable State agency, the remaining balance will be received in $2,500,000 increments over fifteen years. Finally, and most importantly, although the Trust Fund’s corpus could not be spent these past 35 years during the lease’s existence, now that the lease has expired we are not
required to spend it.


Savings and Fiscal Security – a True Legacy for the Residents of Fort Wayne

“My primary plan for the use of the City of Fort Wayne Light Lease Community Fund will likely not be described as novel or headline making – but responsible, fiscally conservative actions rarely are. My plan is simple: The primary use and purpose of the fund should be as a savings account to protect the City from unexpected debt obligations, to reduce the City’s future borrowing requirements and prevent the necessity of future tax increases on the City’s residents. The City of Fort Wayne should be no different than its financially responsible residents who maintain a savings account to protect their family and spend within their means. But when a unique and well-conceived opportunity presents itself, or when a catastrophe occurs, we will have a careful strategy in place to fund it. So, today, I will not be announcing a new brick and mortar structure or a financial giveaway to a favorite group or charity.”

“I recognize the natural tendency to spend a ‘windfall’, that is why 70% of lottery winners become bankrupt. But with cities and states across America facing financial difficulty and hardship, now is not the time to act and spend like an undisciplined lottery winner – this fund is no lottery prize. The fund should not be spent on pet projects and shrines or other purported ‘necessary’ government projects that bring nominal economic return to the City and create future government obligations. Remember, in addition to the annual payments placed in the Trust Fund over last 35 years, the City of Fort Wayne also received an annual payment into its general fund. Does anyone know or remember how that money was spent?”


Creation of Internal Loan Fund Available for City Departments

“Just because my plan for the City’s Light Lease Community Fund is to save it in order to create a financially sound City does not mean the funds cannot be used by the City for the benefit of its residents. ”

“As Mayor of Fort Wayne I will make available a portion of the City’s Light Lease Fund by creating an internal revolving loan fund available to City departments. This internal loan fund would be used to fund infrastructure projects that promote economic development. The term ‘economic projects’ will not be defined broadly however. My narrow definition of ‘economic development projects’ will be defined as follows:

  1. 1) Those projects that make it easier to move people or goods in, through and out of our City;
  2. 2) Those projects that make it easier to move information viable to commerce throughout our City; or
  3. 3) a project or plan that radically decreases the cost of doing business within the City or increases the capacity to do so.

This definition is important because elected officials tend to suggest that any expenditure could ultimately be defined as encouraging economic development. I firmly disagree.”

“This internal fund would be made available by the various City departments whose proposed projects are deemed to have met this definition of economic development, and then have been duly prioritized. The funds would be released in the form of a loan, without the City incurring the expense of taking out a traditional loan or bond, both of which would require the City to pay interest payments to a third-party such as a bank. The borrowing City department would have that obligation charged against it in future budgets as a line item expense, so that it could not proceed with new developments or projects unless it had adequate funding to also begin paying back the monies owed to the internal revolving loan fund ( our permanent rainy day fund). This concept is no different than an individual borrowing money from their individuaI401(k) account. They are borrowing money from themselves and paying back the money – with interest – to themselves. ”

“The benefit of this internal loan proposal is that City departments are held accountable for their spending on economic development projects that would normally exceed their property tax supported budgets. In order to ‘pay back’ this money to the fund, at a pre-agreed term, they would have to budget accordingly so that dollars are available in subsequent years to do so. At the same time, as our CEDIT-backed debt decreases, and it will significantly in 4 years if no new major bonds are acquired, then the ‘CEDIT-side’ of our budget will again have ample resources to also invest in our City’s growth. We can use this money to create a vibrant economic community for businesses to develop and grow, we save the expense of bonding, and we keep our departmental budgets ‘honest’ by charging these costs back to them.”

“The key component is requiring the payback; this would ensure the permanent existence of the Fund. Instead of ‘spending’ the money on projects, or even ‘investing’ it in projects that mayor may not pay back, we instead maintain it in perpetuity so that it can be used over and over again for additional advancements.”


No Spending or Projects Using Light Lease Funds Should Occur Prior to January 1, 2012

“Similar to how the Mayor of Fort Wayne has handled many pressing issues facing the City, he has created a committee to guide his decision making. Do not misunderstand, I thank and appreciate the members of the Mayor’s Legacy Task Force for their time and dedication to the City. It is apparent that they are taking their task seriously. However, the Task Force is currently scheduled to present their proposals to the Mayor in the summer of 2011 – likely just a few short months prior to the November 2011 municipal elections. For that reason, I hereby request of the Mayor that while ideas and proposals may be solicited and collected from the Task Force this summer, the Mayor not initiate any such spending proposals or project initiatives prior to January 1, 2012. It is clear that my ideas for use of the Light Lease Fund and settlement proceeds, as well as the ideas and plans of my fellow Republican opponents, differ drastically from that of our current Mayor. In addition, waiting to spend monies from the Light Lease Community Fund or to initiate any projects using such funds will avoid the perception that the Mayor is spending the fund’s money across the City in an effort to gain votes. It would be improper to subject this valuable asset to political posturing and negative scrutiny.


Liz Brown’s website


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