City Council approved the 2021 city budget Oct. 27 after several weeks of discussion with department heads as they sought ways to cut spending from the $186 million proposed by the city.
In the end, after all the cuts were tallied, $1.1 million was cut from the budget in several areas. Some of the bigger cuts included $344,250 from the Strategic Objective Fund and $100,000 from the Community Development Incentive Fund.
One cut proposed at the meeting, however, did not make the cut. Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, wanted to cut Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer’s entire salary, over $160,000 including benefits. Hines said he had “serious reservations about the deputy mayor’s role.” He became upset with the administration’s handling of the Electric Works project back in August. Council repeatedly asked Mayor Tom Henry or Bandemer to come to a meeting to talk about Electric Works, but both declined.
Hines was concerned about the administration’s lack of transparency and failure to communicate. Some other smaller items were cut for this year. A patch and paint job for the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission was scrapped, as was new furniture for Neighborhood Code and the relocation of a training room. Those three cuts totaled $80,000.
Council even cut some items from its own budget. Mileage reimbursement for $4,500 was cut; council members rarely turn in mileage. A travel reimbursement was cut from $6,000 to $4,000. A cell phone stipend for council members and staff was cut $4,000.
A new-employee add was saved from a budget cut. Last week council was singing the praises of Megan Flohr, City Council administrator, and several said she needed an assistant to help her with all the responsibilities associated with her job. A proposal was made to cut the new-hire position, but it failed.
Henry issued a statement after the budget passed. “As we continue to work together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, our community stepped up to support the City of Fort Wayne budget for 2021 that includes important investments in neighborhood infrastructure, public safety, and parks while also setting aside funds in preparation for likely ongoing challenges due to the pandemic.
“Tonight’s passage of a balanced budget by City Council in a bipartisan manner will enable us to continue to serve the public with essential services without interruption.
“I’m looking forward to 2021 as we’re positioned for future success and growth. Even during difficult circumstances, Fort Wayne is moving forward in a positive direction.”
In other business: The city and City Council reached an agreement on how to pay for the old Rescue Mission at 301 W. Superior St. The city proposed using Local Income Tax revenues (LOIT) to buy the property. They planned to demolish the building and use it for parking for Promenade Park, anticipating at some point a developer would buy it. The acquisition of the property by the Redevelopment Commission was deemed to be necessary for further expansion of the riverfront development plans. The purchase price is $1.2 million.
Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, proposed paying for the property using $337,500 in unencumbered funds cut from the Infrastructure Improvement Fund. The balance, $862,500, would come from LOIT. Councilwoman Michelle Chambers, D-at large, said the Rescue Mission, which has a new building downtown, was still using the Superior Street facility, so she proposed an amendment allowing them to stay there and pay rent on a month-to-month basis until the property is sold or the building is demolished. The amended resolution passed.