To Slash Or Not To Slash: Council Considers Cuts At Tuesday Budget Hearing

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 17, 2011 Updated Oct 17, 2011 at 6:11 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Raise taxes, cut services, or dip into Fort Wayne's cash reserves...those are some of the tough choices city council members will sweat over in budget hearings Tuesday evening.

Finding consensus may be a challenge in the process.

Mayor Tom Henry's 2012 budget is $180-million.

It's basically flat, with no real spending increases proposed, but it does include a roughly three-percent tax hike, which will be a tough sell for council.

The fiscal body meets Tuesday night, and will discuss the budget, including potential cuts that could cancel out the need for the tax increase.

The police department is already postponing demands for updating its fleet of squad cars until at least 2013, but Councilwoman At-Large Liz Brown says about $1-million will be required to cut down ash trees infected with the Emerald Ash Borer.

Brown favors finding more savings in the budget, while Democrat Karen Goldner says we can be spared the tax hike by dipping into the city's savings account.

Karen Goldner/(D) Fort Wayne Council 2nd District: " Part of the reason that we have this healthy cash reserve is to handle these kinds of ups and downs in our revenue and so I think that's where we should look at."

Liz Brown/(R) Fort Wayne Council At Large: " I think that would be a mistake. Lots of rates are going up; sewer rates, gas rates, food prices etc. So I think we need to find some cuts."

Brown believes staffing cuts in the city clerk's office are warranted, and has identified fuel, computer and paper savings from various departmental budgets.

She's adamant that the cash reserves should be spared.

The budget needs to be finalized before the end of the month, most likely at the October 25th meeting.

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