The harsh realities of annual budget deficits, declining tax revenue and a backlog of street repairs will make Fort Wayne's current spending levels unsustainable without changes, fiscal experts were expected to tell City Council on Tuesday.
City Controller Pat Roller said Tuesday the city will face a deficit of up to $6 million in its 2013 budget and likely each year for the foreseeable future, forcing spending cuts, tax increases or a combination of measures.
"Our citizens have kind of grown to expect certain services," Roller said. "The question is, what are citizens willing to pay for?"
A panel of fiscal policy experts convened by Mayor Tom Henry earlier this year was set to present its initial findings to council Tuesday evening.
Henry launched the study largely to examine how Fort Wayne ought to cope with property tax caps that were added to the Indiana constitution in 2010 and have reduced the city's overall tax revenue by about $13.5 million each of the last two years. That impact is likely to be even greater next year as more property owners hit the caps, which limit property taxes to 1 percent on homes.
The study group was expected to outline a variety of options available to the city, including a new local income tax, fees for services provided by the city and deeper spending cuts.
"Is it a crisis? I wouldn't call it a crisis," said John Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. "Will it involve some pain? Yes."