Non-public safety Fort Wayne employees will get a 4% raise in 2022, after a preliminary vote at the Oct. 13 City Council meeting.

“We have the funding for these increases,” said City Controller Garry Morr. The budget has an excess cash balance of $6 million. “We are in a position to offer this.”

Over the past 12 years the average raise for city employees has been 1.92% Some years they got no raises, some years they got 1% raises and some years they got 3% raises. By comparison, some other cities are offering 5 to 5.5% raises, Morr said.

Maintaining competitive salaries is important because “we’re all struggling to retain and recruit new employees,” he said.

In particular, the city is struggling to hire mechanics, engineers and CDL drivers.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to be able to reward our employees for the work they do,” said Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th.

Council also contemplated a salary ordinance for elected Fort Wayne officials that would have given them all a 4% raise. Elected officials include the mayor, city clerk and City Council members.

Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, suggested leaving council members’ salaries at $22,947, rather than bumping them up 4%, which would have put their salaries at $24,581. The amendment failed 7-2, with Arp and Paul Ensley, R-1st, voting for it. The ordinance received a “do pass” recommendation on a 7-2 vote, with Arp and Ensley voting against it.

Morr briefed council on the $50.8 million the city will receive in American Rescue Plan funds. A consultant is working on gathering information currently. “There is no plan yet,” Morr said.

Budget cuts must be submitted by 5 p.m. Oct. 14. At the next meeting on Oct. 19 proposed cuts will be discussed. The budget must be passed by Oct. 26.

The salary ordinances with a preliminary “do pass” recommendation were held for two weeks and will be passed with the rest of the budget.

In other council business:

John Metzinger, general manager of Citilink, presented the public transportation operator’s $17.1 million operating budget, which represents a 6.4% increase over the previous year in operating revenue and a 4.3% increase in expenditures.

The largest expenses are fuel, capital projects and a few positions added to staff, Metzinger said.

Citilink saw a drop in passenger trips during the pandemic but is working to restore ridership with an anticipated 1.3 million trips in 2021.

Metzinger said Citilink is going into contract negotiations with anticipation of increasing current starting pay to attract drivers. Current starting pay is $16.61 an hour. He said it’s difficult to compete in this market at that salary.

Metzinger said, “Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state of Indiana, yet it has one of the smallest and lowest performing public transit agencies.”

He thinks part of that is due to lack of support from the public, and lack of interest and investment in public transportation.

He said Citilink is working with social service agencies to provide discounted fares for clients.

Metzinger also said Citilink is considering extending time of service for people who work second shift, so they can take a bus both to work and back home at the end of their shift.

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