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County approves budget, 2% raise

Spending plan means 1.4% property tax hike for some

– It will take more than $159 million to run the county next year, down slightly from this year’s budget of almost $160 million.

Allen County Council members finalized the 2014 budget Thursday, which includes a 2 percent raise for all employees and elected officials.

The majority of money in the county’s largest general fund is acquired through property tax revenue, with the rest – about 18 percent – coming from excise taxes and various county fees. The general fund continues to dwindle because of changes in state laws and property tax caps that were put in place several years ago. This year the fund dropped by $1 million – from $73 million to $72 million.

Some taxpayers will see an increase of about 1.4 percent on their property tax bills, partly due to an increase of the county’s assessed valuation, said Tera Klutz, county auditor.

For homeowners whose homes are valued at $100,000 and have not yet reached the tax caps, the increase will be about $2 a year, Klutz said.

For homeowners whose property taxes are already capped, there will be no increase unless the total taxable value of their home has increased, she said.

Those living in incorporated areas like Fort Wayne, New Haven and Monroeville have higher tax rates, Klutz said, and the homeowners with $100,000 home are already at the caps.

Assessed valuation increased from 2012 to 2013 by about $157 million, and the county raised the tax levy by 2.6 percent – the maximum allowed by the state – which affects property taxes.

This year’s increase of 1.23 percent in assessed value is the largest the county has seen for several years. Values increased less than 1 percent in 2011 and 2012.

The property tax levy is the amount of property tax revenue a local government can collect by applying the tax rate to the taxable assessed value of the property.

“But a tax rate increase may not mean we will see more money,” due to property tax caps and other factors, Klutz cautioned council members.

A change in state law this year reduced the amount of property taxes paid on rental properties by one-third.

Harris returns raise

Councilman Tom Harris, R-2nd, will return his 2 percent salary increase back to the county.

Harris voted in favor of the raise for other elected officials because “they do an excellent job,” he said.

“But I am not comfortable accepting an increase for myself,” he said.

Because next year’s salary ordinance was already in place, Harris will return the money to the county in the form of a donation, he said.

This year, all county personnel received a 2 percent salary increase, with the council excluding itself. Council members are paid $15,475 annually, and two of the seven council members chose to get health insurance under a benefits package.

Next year’s increase – and Harris’ donation – will amount to $309.50 for each council member.