$8.5 Million Mistake Or Opportunity?

How Would You Spend The Money If Mayor?

Once again, the city of Fort Wayne has found itself flush with more cash.  It’s turning into a trend lately, and I’m sure Mayor Henry would deny the existence of secret city owned money trees, planted covertly on top of the new Citizen’s Square.  However, the fact is, the city is set to receive another 8.5 Million during the next few days. Everyone in the city government has an idea how to spend it.  My biggest concern is (we have to stay relevant to the blog), with all of the energy swirling around, will we see any of the money used in or near downtown?

Now as far as how the money came about in the first place…it occurred by a mistake the state level, and those in charge of this debacle have since resigned.  Some could argue this wasn’t a bad thing for the city as it forced the local government to tighten its belt when not entirely necessary.  Others would be more inclined to speak of the damage, or lack of progress cutting an additional $8.5M from the budget may have caused. Either way…tell us in the comment section below how YOU believe the city should spend its money.

$8.5 Million Dreams

The City Council’s conservative bloc was in a surprisingly spendthrift mood Tuesday, salivating at the prospect of an unexpected $8.5 million filling city coffers and at no loss for ideas on how to spend the money – now.

Spend $6 million on streets, said Council President Tom Smith, with $1 million going to each council district. Use some of the money to replace ash trees, said Councilman John Shoaff. Look at bigger projects, said Councilman Tom Didier.

This public airing of wish lists, though, was decidedly political strategy, with some council Republicans seeking to:

•Try to shape where the money will go rather than follow the normal procedure of the mayor proposing specific spending and the council voting on the proposals.

•Reinstate, at least for one time, the pork-barrel practice of spreading local income tax money around, spending a certain amount in each council district.

These initiatives to boost incumbent council members’ popularity among voters came even before the money reached the city’s bank account. Because of an accounting error revealed last week, the state had shortchanged local governments a total of $206 million; the city’s share is $8.5 million.

Fortunately, cooler heads will probably prevail as City Controller Pat Roller and other city officials weigh the city’s needs and the unexpected money.

One of the first matters officials need to address is where the city stands on spending this year’s budget. The 2012 budget includes $3 million more in spending than revenues. Henry administration officials said last fall they might be able to achieve that much in savings over the year and, if not, would spend $3 million in cash reserves.

That budget drew criticism from Councilman Mitch Harper for having a “structural deficit.” But instead of shoring up cash reserves – which should be among the serious options – Harper backed Smith’s proposal to spend it on streets.

Several council members liked the idea of spending money on streets and spreading it around the city. But where did $1 million per district come from, other than being a nice round number? Is that the best use of the money? Is it fair to believe that the needs in each district are exactly the same? Isn’t it possible that the southeast 6th District has greater needs than the northeast 2nd District?

Few Hoosier cities are as fortunate as Fort Wayne. With $20 million in cash reserves, $75 million coming from the I&M Legacy payments and now $8.5 million more, the city has many options. But the city’s fortunes were not just luck; they were a result of deliberative planning, strategy, cutting costs and saving. Officials – and council members – should use similar planning and careful consideration to make sure the money goes to its best use.

And surely, at least some of it should be saved.

-Journal Gazette

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Categories: Goverment, Transit

6 Comments on “$8.5 Million Mistake Or Opportunity?”

  1. April 13, 2012 at 7:31 AM #

    High speed rail, anyone? Maybe investments in emerging markets like green technology? This money (like all money) needs to pave the way for the future of Fort Wayne. We shouldn’t spend it haphazardly on short-run gains, but rather, let us open our eyes to long-run opportunities.

    • Richard B Miller Jr
      April 16, 2012 at 6:40 AM #

      Excellent suggestions!

  2. April 12, 2012 at 12:29 PM #

    Reblogged this on Fort Wayne Moves.

    • Richard B Miller Jr
      April 13, 2012 at 4:12 AM #

      Get started on the Headwaters Junction streetcar rail line with some of the money. That would eventually impact most if not all of the city. And it would be spending on streets, as well.

      • April 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM #

        Great thought Richard. I’m not sure if we’ll see any of this money used for the Headwaters Junction project but that doesn’t bother me too much at this point due to the fact that there is a major initiative taking place to find it with a sizable chunk of the the light lease money. I don’t expect to hear any details in the next few months but I’m hoping more details come about (in July I believe) for everyone to get excited about. It would truly make Fort Wayne a major destination in the midwest and perhaps on a national level as well.

        • Richard B Miller Jr
          April 16, 2012 at 6:38 AM #

          It’s great to hear there is going to be some more progress on the Headwaters Junction plan! You don’t often see this kind of bold vision on public transportation projects especially, not this close to home. But it is a very pleasant surprise.
          I think you’re right. Headwaters Junction can be a major draw if they stick close to that great plan they have.
          I’ve wanted to see the Schwebebahn since I first heard about it a few years ago. It attracts people from all over the world. And it’s over a century old. Train lines can indeed be quite the draw when they dare to be a little different.

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