I would like to thank everyone who attended my recent series of Town Hall Budget Meetings. The information sessions attracted many residents in our community and led to some interesting and important discussions about the City’s finances.
As you know, it is my priority to maintain a high level of City services without raising property taxes. I have been able to achieve that goal in each of the past four years. I recently submitted the City’s 2004 budget to Fort Wayne City Council. Because I worked to build a $23 million safety net and implemented cost-cutting measures earlier in the year, the 2004 spending plan will allow us to continue to provide more services without reducing the City’s workforce.
The total 2004 proposed Civil City budget is $118,751,596, an increase of 4.8% or $5,395,506 from the 2003 Civil City budget. The only budget increase is in the City’s public safety departments where there is a $5,463,679 proposed increase. At a time when some cities are laying off public safety workers, the City of Fort Wayne will be expanding its safety forces. In all other Civil City departments, spending will actually decrease by $68,173. Aside from rising health care costs and cost of living and pension increases, the City budget has declined from the 2003 level.
This has been a difficult year for local governments across the state. The recession, tax restructuring and court-ordered reassessments have led to significantly lower tax revenues for all cities and counties. We expect that revenues in the City of Fort Wayne could fall by as much as $19 million in 2004. Fortunately, the City began the process of budget cutting more than two years ago when I asked our Department Heads to look for innovative ways to save money. Those steps, along with the City’s $23 million cash safety net, will help Fort Wayne weather this difficult financial storm without raising property taxes. The City will also be able to maintain a reasonable cash safety net at the end of 2004.
I continue to look for ways to save the taxpayers’ money. As the 2004 budget is reviewed I hope you will find that the City’s level of service remains high while taxes are not raised.
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