The Allen County Council had all kinds of things to say about the City of Fort Wayne’s examination of its options for plugging a $5 million hole in its budget, especially its proposal to raise income taxes. None of them were nice.
Local income taxes are set by the Allen County Income Tax Council, but that body’s votes are based on population so the city controls the tax council.
"We have been working so hard on economic development,” said Roy Buskirk, R-at large. “It's a slap in the face that they are truly considering that.”
County Council President Darren Vogt said not only was the city reckless, but undemocratic.
“We took steps in 2011-12 and asked all department heads to cut their budgets. The city did not do that. They continue to spend at the same levels…” Vogt said. “City Council has all that power (to raise income taxes), while 70,000 people have no say in the matter. That is taxation without representation.”
For the record, “taxation without representation” means not getting a vote. It doesn’t mean not having a majority vote. And last we checked, the 260,000 Fort Wayne residents were also residents of Allen County.
The city responded Tuesday evening by pointing out that the city has charged less than the maximum property taxes the state allowed since 1991, to the point where in 2008, the city collected $35 million less in property taxes than it could have. Over the years, it has collected $303 million less than the maximum, Controller Pat Roller said.
Allen County, meanwhile, she pointed out, has taken the maximum amount the state allowed every single year, as has every other taxing body she knows of.
Officials also pointed out the city does not collect property taxes for debt service or have a cumulative capital development levy, while the county does.
“The people who have sat around this (council) table for the last 20 years have voluntarily decided to reduce that levy by $303 million,” Roller said. “We have been thinking about reducing the levy for 20 years longer than anyone else has.”