A commitment to providing essential services and protecting taxpayers is a vital function of local government. The daily effort of city employees is unwavering as they look for ways to enhance an already high-performing city and continue to be good stewards of public dollars.
As is done each fall, Mayor Tom Henry’s administration has prepared the 2024 budget for the city of Fort Wayne with a focus on meeting the needs of residents, neighborhoods, and businesses. The proposed budget places a heavy emphasis on neighborhood infrastructure, public safety, and parks. Those are the three areas that we receive the most requests about from constituents.
Working together with division and department leaders, City Council, and the community, we’ve constructed a spending plan that is reflective of what Fort Wayne has become – a leader in live, work, and play initiatives that has positioned us as an award-winning city that continues to win one national award after another.
Our budget plan for 2024, which is $235.1 million, is balanced with a 4.6% reduction in the tax rate. Local assessed valuations on properties continue to rise - 11 consecutive years, steady revenue growth has allowed us to maintain a very strong fund balance over the past several years, and through strong fiscal management in partnership with City Council, we have sufficient cash reserves to be able to respond to emergencies in uncertain times.
The continuation of the commitment to neighborhood infrastructure projects will be noticeable with a planned investment of $44.6 million, which includes $33.2 million for streets, roads and bridges, $9.3 million for sidewalks and alleys, and $2.1 million for trails. The proposed list of upgrades includes the Leesburg Road extension with a roundabout at Main Street and Leesburg, concrete street rehabilitation on East Cook Road, improvements to the Bluffton Road and Goeglein Road bridges, and trail expansions on the Pufferbelly, Covington Road, and Liberty Mills Road trails.
Public safety is again at the forefront as the Fort Wayne Police Department will have its 68th recruit class that will keep the budgeted number of officers patrolling city streets to protect the public at 500. The FWPD will expand the drone as first responder program. The department will also receive new hand-held radios for officers, as well as additional moving radars for increased traffic enforcement.
The Fort Wayne Fire Department will be adding five new engines. The 96th recruit class will help bring the number of firefighters to 375. Drone technology will assist fire investigators at emergencies to aid in gathering data and temperature analysis on hazardous materials releases, hot spot determination during large fires, and photo documentation.
Investments in maintenance projects through the Parks & Recreation Department will total $3 million. There will also be improvements to Franke Park, Brewer Park, Packard Park’s master plan work will continue, and there will be renovations to the Mechanic Street Bridge at Swinney Park.
And, to keep vital services functioning well at all times, our information technology department will have cyber security as a focus with meaningful investments to keep our assets and resources safe.
Fort Wayne definitely is a city on the move that’s experiencing growth and success like never before. Our belief in engagement, innovation, and performance has turned us into a nationally recognized model for budgeting and providing excellent services.
Fort Wayne’s financial health is very strong. We look forward to the dialogue with City Council and residents throughout October as we collaborate and partner to pass a proactive budget that will serve all of us well in 2024 and beyond.