Council Continues to Debate over Budget Cuts

By Rachel Martin

May 21, 2013 Updated Nov 22, 2013 at 10:16 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv)-- The debate on what to cut for the city budget continues.

When it comes to compensating for the 2014 budget shortfall, Fort Wayne City Council has already made some cuts, but their most recent proposals could affect public safety employees.

The city has proposed raising property and income taxes, and cutting city employee benefits, specifically spousal coordination of benefits, a change in sick pay policy and purchase of short-term disability policy, and a reduction in Fort Wayne Fire Department overtime.

By cutting benefits, the city will save approximately $3 million collectively; otherwise they run the risk of cutting public safety employees and services.

“There's no good choice here. There are only two bad choices. Do we want a little bit higher taxes or do we want cuts in services and employees? Neither one is anything any of the council people really want to do,” said Dr. John Crawford, City Councilman At-Large.

However, when it comes to the idea of raising taxes, Crawford says it could be worse for Fort Wayne.

“Fort Wayne’s actually in pretty good shape,” he said. “Our property taxes are well below what we can do. We can raise them, where a lot of other cities are at their max. We haven’t touched the income tax since 1999, so we can go way up on that. All the other cities are already maxed out so they have no choice but to lay off people.”

Tuesday night Council proposed an ordinance to the Allen County Income Tax Council, requesting that they impose a county option on raising income taxes, and voting in favor to raise Fort Wayne’s. Three people spoke out on the issue. Although they didn’t sound thrilled, overall they seemed in favor of the option if it meant keeping the city up to a certain standard.

“If you just keep cutting everything down, you don’t fix the streets, you don’t hire police, you don’t keep up the parks, we’re not going to be a city where a nice young employee, or employers, with the skills you want will want to be. They’re going to go somewhere else,” said Crawford.

Overall, Crawford says the goal is to find a way to earn revenue.

“No matter what we do people aren’t going to be entirely pleased,” he said “Our job [as council] is to find the best bad choice.”

Public Hearings on the tax issues will be held June 11 and 18. Decisions on the tax and collective bargaining ordinances have been postponed for another three weeks. Council is expected to make their final decisions by the end of June.

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