FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – The City Administration is asking City Council to approve moving $800,000 from the street and parks budgets to city firefighters.
Members of Fort Wayne City Council say there was a miscalculation of $800,000 the Fort Wayne Fire Department’s budget.
Now, the City Administration is asking for $400,000 in funding from the roads budget, and $400,000 from the Parks Department to help make up for the shortfall.
Officials with the Fort Wayne Fire Department say the money would keep and add more firefighters on the street everyday.
Jeremy Bush, President of the Firefighter’s Union, says currently there are 91 – 92 firefighters on the streets everyday. With the additional funding, FWFD can train and hire 10 more firefighters, in addition to the 15 already in training, and have 95 – 96 firefighters working everyday.
“The total will be 25 [new firefighters] with the additional three people on duty every single day, which is the most important thing so we can provide that service to the citizens,” said Bush.
Although council members understand the importance of public safety, Councilmen Russ Jehl (R – 2nd Dist.) and John Shoaff (R – At Large) objected to the ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting, saying the money should come from somewhere else.
"The parks were underfunded, the roads were underfunded, and we didn't have enough fire and police,” said Jehl. “We made a promise to the public that if income taxes were raised there would be new investment put in all those important departments. Now that we have a small bump in the road, I think it's inappropriate to go back on that promise."
Around budget time in Oct. 2013, Bush approached the Council on behalf of the firefighters inquiring about cuts that had been made to their original budget request. Now, firefighters are happy they’re getting what they need.
“We had several conversations about it,” said Bush. “I think our priority was based around the fact that we felt we needed more firefighters on the street everyday. I think there was a reevaluation done by both the City Administration and the new Public Safety Director, and they felt and saw the need for additional firefighters.”
However, Jehl says the money to support the firefighters could come from another source, possibly through the unallocated money in the City’s $200 million budget.
“With our $200 million budget, parks, public safety, and roads only comprise about $150 million. So there’s another $50 million of potential items that we can look at first before we go back on that promise we made to the taxpayer while we raised their taxes,” said Jehl.
The ordinance to allocate the money from roads and parks was introduced Tuesday night, and will be further discussed by council at their next meeting March 4.
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