I was recently asked what I thought of our city's finances and the 2012 budget. In short, does our city have its financial house in order? My answer was a confident "Yes," and here's why.
Fort Wayne's 2012 budget is testament to our fiscal health and serves as the foundation for strong neighborhoods and a city with a vibrant future.
Unlike many other cities across the country that have been forced to slash essential services during these tough economic times, our city's financial position is one of strength and opportunity.
For the fourth straight year, I presented to City Council – and the council approved -- a budget that will hold spending flat. Additionally, this year's budget has no new city debt.
Here are the facts: For the last three years we have come in under budget every year. Not only have we held spending flat and kept the 2012 budget free of new city debt, this budget will allow us to pay down our current debt by more than $16 million. With these measures in place, we remain on track to pay down 40 percent of city debt by 2015. We are doing more with less, and our efforts are paying off. As The Journal Gazette recently noted, Fort Wayne has one of the lowest per-capita debts in the country.
It is also important to highlight that this budget continues to fully fund crucial city services. Other cities have been forced to lay off police officers and firefighters, but not here in Fort Wayne. As a result, crime is down 14 percent and fire fighters now have an average response time of 4 ½ minutes or less. During one of the worst blizzards in history, we got the snow cleared fast. And our new solid waste and recycling program has allowed us to cut residential garbage fees by over $1 million. We continue to do more with less.
I've insisted that our 2012 budget keeps our city finances strong while continuing to support vital services because it's the recipe to help local businesses create good paying jobs. Under my administration, growing our economy has been my top priority. I was proud to work with Republicans and Democrats to streamline our permitting process – cutting red tape to make it easier for companies to invest in our community and hire more residents. Our efforts have put Fort Wayne in a special position. Our local economy (GDP) is growing at twice the national rate, and manufacturing is growing at four times the national average.
By working together, we can maintain our fiscal strength and continue to deliver high-quality city services as we build upon our success. Working together, we've delivered a budget that ensures that our city continues to be a great place to live and a great place to grow jobs. Together, we can keep Fort Wayne moving forward.