As I wrote recently, the 2003 city budget is currently being developed. Each city department prepares a departmental budget and that information is forwarded to the mayor's office for review. The mayor and his staff have the legal authority to work with departmental directors and modify the proposed budget in any way they feel is appropriate. The budget is then forwarded to the City Council for final review during the month of September. Under the laws of the state of Indiana the City Council is only allowed to cut items from the budget—nothing else can be added. On several occasions in the past citizens or citizens advocacy groups have come to me during the month of September with appeals to add dollars to a line in the city budget. An example was the push during the late 1990's to add another law enforcement officer to the staff of the Neighborhood Code Enforcement to clean up trashy properties. For reasons noted above it isn't possible for yours truly or any city council member to add new expenditures to the budget at that late date. If you have any suggestions for enhanced funding of any city department now is the time to let me know and also to contact the Mayor with your requests. In the case of Neighborhood Code Enforcement, extra staff was added to the department but only after a years wait for another budgetary cycle. Give me a call if you have any suggestions regarding the 2003 city budget.
While I'm mentioning the budget issue I should certainly make a point to emphasize some great news that hit the presses last week. It is currently projected that Fort Wayne will have a $17 million dollar budget surplus on hand going into next year. A variety of factors have contributed to this very positive news which is all the more amazing in light of the fact that the US, state and local economies have all been under performing during recent months, as we are all aware. Certainly the mayor and his staff need to be congratulated on good management of the taxpayers dollars. It has been suggested that this surplus be immediately returned to the taxpayers similar to the actions of the of the Indiana State Government during recent years when the state treasury was running a $2 billion surplus. After over $1 billion of the projected state surplus was returned to the taxpayers in the form of tax cuts and other measures designed to minimize the state budget surplus the economy worsened, revenues fell, and the funding of important state programs was jeopardized. (For some reason many have been beating up on Governor O'Bannon for these developments which seemed to have broad bipartisan support at the time). It seems to me that Ft. Wayne's Mayor and City Council would be wise at this point to consider the current surplus as essentially a cash reserve as we move forward into 2003 and 2004. As we are all aware these are somewhat unstable times from the economic and security viewpoints and it is more difficult than ever to predict future developments. We definitely need to do more from the Homeland Security viewpoint; the Federal Government considers those responsibilities to fall very heavily on the shoulders of the local government. Happily there will likely be more federal dollars coming our direction for this type but a local 10-25% local $ match will likely be required by the Feds. Thus keeping the current city "surplus" on reserve, which makes all the more sense to me as those dollars may well directly affect the security of our local citizens. All of this will be sorted out during the upcoming budget discussions; let me know your thoughts.
There are a couple of other items I should mention as well. I'll summarize them briefly. City Council recently passed a redistricting ordinance, which hasn't been signed by the Mayor at the time of this writing. I personally hope the Mayor will veto the ordinance and send it back to council to be reworked. There wasn't' much interest in redistricting initially; however, as the process progressed, quite a few citizens came forward who felt strongly that the maps weren't being drawn correctly. In my opinion those citizens were denied the input they requested and they need to be heard before redistricting is "cast in stone". Finally, I'm eager to hear from one or more neighborhood activists in the Southwest Waynedale Neighborhood Association area who would be willing to take on a leadership role in associations. My estimate would be that an average of 1-2 hours per month by 3 or four residents of that area (basically south of L. Huntington Rd. and west of Bluffton Road) would be enough to rejuvenate the SWWA and to help me accomplish some important goals in that area. Many SWWA residents have worked hard in the past; now I'm looking for some citizens who want to fight for their area to come forward. If you have any questions and/or are interested in helping out give me a call. Thanks again to previous leaders of that association as well as to all the other hard working neighborhood leaders in the "Waynedale News" area. It's been a pleasure to work with you as your district councilman. Give me a call with any thoughts or suggestions regarding the Fourth District of our fine city.
City Council District 4