The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, September 24, 2021 1:00 am

Budget blueprint a balancing act

City sets priorities while also setting funds aside

Garry Morr

Preparing the budget for the City of Fort Wayne is one of the most important tasks local government does for the public each year. It's critical that we be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and position the community for current and future success through sound fiscal management.

It takes a collective effort, especially in the middle of a pandemic, to design a budget to meet the needs of residents, neighborhoods and businesses in our growing and thriving city.

Leadership from Mayor Tom Henry, division and department heads, and City Council has resulted in responsible budgeting.

Our community can look forward to a lot of activity in 2022, with plans calling for record investments in neighborhood infrastructure improvements totaling $41.5 million when combined with enhancements through the Parks & Recreation Department.

The breakdown is $29.1 million for streets, roads and bridges, $6 million for sidewalks and alleys, $3.4 million for trails and $3 million for maintenance projects in city parks.

Providing you with the best public safety services possible continues to a be a top commitment as well.

The police department will have 485 officers patrolling city streets. An academy class of 30 recruits is planned. The body camera program will be fully implemented. There will also be an expansion of the Air Support Unit and Downtown Bike Patrol.

The fire department plans to add two new engines to replace Engines 18 and 12. An academy class of 21 recruits is planned. A new Fire Station 14 will be built at the southeast corner of East State Boulevard and Reed Road to replace the existing Fire Station 14 at 3400 Reed Road.

We listen to our constituents, and they consistently tell us that neighborhood infrastructure, parks and public safety are important priorities for them. We value and appreciate feedback and we respond accordingly.

Budgeting in a pandemic is unique and challenging. The 2022 budget was designed to continue to provide essential services while also setting aside funds to address future financial emergencies. We also have a sufficient cash reserve to be able to respond in these uncertain times.

We're seeing positive financial indicators. Local assessed valuations on properties continue to rise. And steady revenue growth has allowed us to maintain a strong fund balance over the past several years.

We recognize a lot of individuals, families and businesses continue to face hardships and challenges. We care and continue to do everything possible with the resources we've been given to lend assistance. I'm heartened by the fact that Fort Wayne's strength and resiliency continue to shine through even as we continue to battle COVID-19.

Through it all, the state of Fort Wayne's finances is strong, and we're looking forward to a productive 2022.

You can learn more about the budget at cityoffortwayne.org/smartgov. We'll provide a formal presentation to City Council on Oct. 5 and are anticipating cordial and productive discussions throughout the month of October to continue to move Fort Wayne in the right direction.

Garry Morr is controller for the city of Fort Wayne.

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