August 8, 2023 - Response from Mayor Tom Henry related to Councilman Jehl’s statement about LIT investments.
“Unfortunately, Councilman Jehl has a very myopic view of this supplemental local income tax appropriation. In minimizing that a portion of the funds “[do] not go to any specific part of the city,” he ignores $2.1 million for public safety, $2 million for increasing energy efficiency through LED streetlights, and $800,000 for neighborhood street trees and improvement grants, which serve all across the City.
Councilman Jehl also confuses equality with equity. Certain areas of our City need additional investment due to their age and previous underinvestments. For example, our City parks in the 4th District are new compared to the rest of the City. Nearby, we just spent $537,000 in Buckner Park from normal budget appropriations. These particular additional funds allow us to make strides towards addressing certain longstanding needs, including realizing the vision set forth in the Southeast Area Strategy. When each section of our City has the opportunity to thrive, we are a much stronger City.
He further ignores the unprecedented investments this Administration has made in neighborhood infrastructure in recent years. Just since 2018, the City has invested $233 million in improving sidewalks, streets, roads, trails, bridges, parks, and for the first time in 100 years, alleys. This level of funding was made possible due to adjustments to the local income tax focused on public safety, public works, parks, riverfront, sidewalks, and alleys, which Councilman Jehl voted against. Tonight’s additional appropriation is but one piece in the funding puzzle we assemble each year.
I appreciate Councilman Jehl bringing up the plans for the 2019 supplemental distribution. In the part of the proposal that was passed, funding was split equally among the four quadrants for improvements and it quickly became apparent that not all quadrants were on par with each other to be ready to make plans for spending such large amounts. City staff has spent a great deal of time and effort in supporting that process to ensure success across the entire City.
In addition, Council rejected expanding a program that would have provided $1 million to homeowners through a zero-interest loan program to help residents replace damaged roofing or repair home heating and cooling systems. As the funds would have eventually been returned to the City through repayments, it could have gone a long way to continually helping the people of Fort Wayne, not just rebuild the concrete and asphalt around them.
Finally, in the midst of considering this additional appropriation, we are working with City Council on putting together the budget for 2024. Throughout the year, I meet with members of City Council and during this time of year, we continue to meet to gather their input. It’s important that we not just look at each district as a separate part, but also at the City as a whole.
Our downtown is the heart of Fort Wayne and our neighborhoods are our City’s backbone. To ensure that all parts are vibrant and thriving, we must continue to invest in the places we live, work, and play. This is how we keep Fort Wayne moving forward.”