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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Maintaining public safety is what City Council had in mind when it approved an income tax increase to compensate for losses from property tax caps.

County’s tax hypocrisy

City Council recently voted for a 0.35 percent increase in Allen County local-option income taxes, which had been held at 1 percent since 1999. City Council has the majority of the votes on the Allen County Income Tax Council, which controls the local-option income taxes. With City Council’s vote, the increase will occur and affects all taxpayers in Allen County.

City Council reviewed all aspects of the city budget for well over a year. After that exhaustive review, seven out of nine City Council members supported the increase. This was the absolute minimum increase necessary to meet our core responsibilities of public safety, maintaining streets and other infrastructure, maintaining a high quality of life, and pursuing economic development.

The increase was necessitated by the decrease in revenue to the city from the state property tax caps. The 0.35 percent increase only replaces about the amount of the revenue decrease from the caps. This basically maintains city services at the same level and does not allow for any major new expenditures.

City Council received a letter in April from all seven members of Allen County Council and three members of the Board of Commissioners opposing the tax increase proposal. They stated that Allen County did not need the money. County Council President Darren Vogt stated, “I don’t think (the increase) was necessary.” Allen County will receive about $3.9 million for their budget from the increase.

Fort Wayne has kept its property tax levy as low as possible for many years and was well below the maximum state-allowed levy. Allen County and almost all other jurisdictions in the county have increased their property tax levies every year by the maximum annual growth increase allowed by state law.

I don’t know their budgets as well as I know the city’s budget. However, if county officials were serious when they stated they didn’t need any extra revenue and felt the tax increase unnecessary, they do have an option at this time. If they feel they don’t need this revenue from the citizens, they can freeze their property tax levy at last year’s level or take less than the full allowed growth increase.

Allen County or any of the taxing jurisdictions in Allen County have this option, which is completely under their power when they prepare their budgets for this year. If they do not need the money and defer their annual property tax increase, that would slightly decrease the overall taxes of each Allen County citizen. I would challenge them to do that at budget time if they truly felt the recent LOIT increase was unnecessary.

It will be interesting to see whether Allen County or any of the taxing jurisdictions that opposed the LOIT increase pass their annual property tax increase to the maximum this year – as they usually do.

John Crawford is a Fort Wayne City Council member. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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