Mayor Tom Henry and the City of Fort Wayne announced priorities for the 2017 budget Thursday afternoon. The proposal has a departmental budget of over $195 million, which is a 0.78 percent increase from 2016.
Mayor Henry pledged nearly $24 million to neighborhood street, road and sidewalk improvements, and close to an $8 million investment to City Parks. The budget also allows for 28 new police officers.
Henry says drafting the budget was a community effort.
“These are areas that our citizens have consistently asked us to invest in, that our City Council members have shared with us areas of concern that they have heard about, and our budget reflects a commitment to those areas,” said Henry.
The proposal to hire 28 new police officers would bring the total number of city officers to about 460. Police Chief Steve Reed says the additional officers would compensate for those retiring from the force in the near future, while also giving the department a surplus of officers.
“We can fully staff our police department, especially our operations division, which again gives our commanders enough resources to proactively serve the citizens,” said Reed.
With an uptick in crime around Fort Wayne in 2016, Reed says having a full staff could help bring those numbers down.
“More officers will help and hopefully be out there to prevent some of these incidents and, if not, arrive quickly so we can solve them, with the public’s help,” he said.
Reed also says crimes cannot be solved without increased community involvement.
After getting $3 million from the City of Fort Wayne in the 2016 budget, Mayor Henry’s proposed budget would more than double that, to $7.7 million.
Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation executive director Al Moll says the increase in funding is essential for the department to sustain the quality of the city’s parks.
“A lot of it is maintenance, but there are a few projects that, if in fact we don’t get the approval for that amount, then we probably won’t be able to complete them,” said Moll.
Moll also notes that the City’s allotment of funds only makes up a portion of his department’s overall operating budget, which hovers around $17 million. He also gave an idea of where the funding, if allocated, would go.
“We’ve got to finish up the Franklin school project, that’s $1.2 million,” he said. “We’ve got a $5 million backlog in just paving parking lots, roadways, and we’ll probably dedicate a million to that.”
Fort Wayne City Councilman At-Large Dr. John Crawford says the proposal looks good as it was presented, but notes that, in his words, “the devil is in the details.”
“Any increases more than the average, any new positions are always scrutinized very closely, anybody got a raise more than anybody else, that’ll be scrutinized closely,” said Crawford. “So we look at everything in great detail.”
Crawford says the Fort Wayne City Council will spend much of October dissecting and discussing the full budget proposal, and says the process will be done by October 25. By state law, the city budget is required to be balanced.