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As the ax falls

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-11-25


The sordid soap opera that was the 2009 City of Fort Wayne Budget debate appears to be settled. City employees will have to go without raises, but no one will be laid off due to belt tightening.

Over the eight years of the Richard Administration, the annual budget discussion became a pretty routine affair. Led by council fiscal hawks Don Schmidt and John Crawford, council members typically went over the Mayor Richard’s budget proposal with a fine toothed comb, but even council’s most conservative members generally agreed that Richard’s budgets were pretty lean.

However, Mayor Tom Henry’s inaugural budget didn’t get so friendly a reception. As originally proposed, Mayor Henry’s budget asked for a seemingly modest increase of less than 1%. City employees, who were used to 3% raises, were slated to get half that in Henry’s proposed budget plan.

Still, council members wanted more cuts. Looking beyond 2009, council members were even more concerned about 2010. Mayor Henry actually sparked those concerns when he expressed fear about state legislation that will reduce property tax revenues for the City of Fort Wayne. With that in mind, council members said, “Why wait?” Led by council’s new fiscal hawk, Liz Brown (R-At Large), council members demanded more cuts right now.

In the end, an additional $2.5-million was cut. Most of that comes from city employees who won’t get raises next year. Usually, city workers could count on 3% annual increases. Mayor Henry initially proposed a 1.5% pay hike. Council members cut pay raises entirely.

However, council members relented on job cuts. Originally calling for Mayor Henry to lose a position in the public information office, council members reconsidered and kept the $54,700 per year position.

In the end, the process proved somewhat bruising not for the Mayor but for Councilwoman Brown. At one meeting, Brown was scolded for being unprepared, and of the more than $7-million in cuts she did proposed, all but $100,000 were rejected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

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