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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Council’s proposed budget cuts show fiscal responsibility as qualification for re-election

With city elections so near, it is good to see the councilmen elected four years ago doing what we wanted them to — make responsible decisions with public money.

It is encouraging to know that not everything going on in Fort Wayne is tied to spending. Tuesday, Council completed an exercise in saving money through judicious decisions to create a proposal for cuts to the 2020 budget. Council signed off on Mayor Tom Henry’s 2020 fiscal year budget after proposing more than $955,000 in cuts to bring the total budget amount to about $180 million.

Most of these same councilmen are up for re-election on Nov. 5, and News-Sentinel.com has endorsed a majority of them to be put back in office for the next four-year term. It is their fiscal conservatism that we believe makes them good stewards of the funds under their purview.

“There’s some major policy decisions that will affect millions of dollars, and so using the power of the purse, we forced those policy discussions and some good things will come out of it,” Council finance committee chairman Russ Jehl said in a Journal Gazette report following Tuesday’s Council meeting. Jehl, a Republican, is running unopposed for re-election to the 2nd District.

Jehl proposed most of the cuts under discussion at Tuesday’s Council meeting, while others came from outgoing Council President John Crawford, R-at large, as well as Tom Freistroffer, R-at large; Tom Didier, R-3rd; Jason Arp, R-4th, and Paul Ensley R-1st, all of whom we endorsed for re-election.

The proposed $955,267 in proposed cuts from the county economic development income tax (CEDIT) include $500,000 for streetscape improvements, which Jehl said are in tax increment financing (TIF) districts. He believes those improvements should be funded by taxes resulting from new developments in those districts.

Other cuts included $150,000 from Community Development for the comprehensive plan; $85,000 for a road study along Jefferson and Washington boulevards; and $80,000 in contracted services for the Finance and Administration department. The councilmen even approved cutting $4,500 in mileage compensation for themselves.

The budget was approved, 8-1, with the cuts representing 0.53 percent of the total budget. Henry praised Council for finishing the budget well before its Nov. 1 deadline.

“Tonight’s passage of the City of Fort Wayne budget for 2020,” Henry said in a statement Tuesday, “is an example of our community working together to help ensure we continue to support the essential services that city government provides to the public. In a bipartisan manner, we partnered to approve a budget that’s reflective of a city that’s positioned for current and future success.”

We look forward to a Council in the coming year that will continue to be fiscally responsible. And toward that end, we have endorsed incumbent councilmen Freistroffer, Didier, Arp and Ensley, as mentioned above, as well as Michael Barranda, R-at large, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th. We are also endorsing newcomer Nathan Hartman, R-at large, to replace Crawford, who is not seeking re-election since his unsuccessful bid for mayor in the Republican primary in the spring.

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