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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette City Councilman Jason Arp speaks Wednesday about opposition to a proposed income tax hike as state Reps. Chris Judy, left, and Bob Morris, look on.

Thursday, May 18, 2017 1:00 am

Group opposes proposed income tax hike

Says would add to residents' 'burden'

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Several state and elected Fort Wayne officials Wednesday urged City Council to find alternatives to pay for riverfront development and announced a coalition organized by Americans for Prosperity to oppose a tax increase.

“Every time I'm opening up the newspaper, reading about city government, it's about more taxes,” said state Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne.

Justin Stevens, state director of Americans for Prosperity, suggested the proposed income tax would be untenable for Allen County residents.

“We think that if you look at what's happened over the last year or so, not only here in Fort Wayne but across the state, that taxpayers here are facing significantly more burden than they were a year ago,” Stevens said.

The proposed tax increase, which would raise existing rates by 0.15 percent, was announced last month by City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large. Three other City Council members and Mayor Tom Henry attended that news conference.

Money generated by the increase would help fund future phases of the city's downtown riverfront development project, as well as future sidewalk and alley projects, proponents say. Discussions on the proposal are expected to start this month or in June, with a vote planned for July 11.

If the increase is approved by Aug. 31, it would go into effect in October.

The current income tax rate for Allen County is 1.35 percent. Although the increase would affect the entire county, City Council controls the majority of the votes on the Allen County Tax Council because about 72 percent of county residents live within city limits. 

Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st; Russ Jehl, R-2nd; and Jason Arp, R-4th, joined Wednesday's announcement in opposition of the proposal. State Reps. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne, and Morris also attended.

“If riverfront development is something we feel that could be done, there are other ways to pursue it,” Arp said. “We've had a $3 million organic growth in the taxes reflected in assessed values and the CIB has the food and beverage tax that can more than fund these bonds in the long run if we chose to use those rather than doing income tax.” 

Arp added that increases to the wheel tax and gas tax, as well as raising fees for stormwater and garbage collection begin to add up. 

“Once you add all these up and this additional income tax, you're talking about hundreds of dollars a year for some families,” Arp said. “That may be the difference between someone's little kid getting a new pair of shoes or something.”

Morris asked City Council to “stop following the mayor's lead” and oppose the proposed increase. 

“This tax alone for those young families out there that are just starting out, for every $100,000 you make it's going to be roughly $150. So, you pare that down and you make $50,000, that's going to be $75 in additional money,” Morris said.

The group plans to engage in a campaign that includes phone calls, door-to-door canvassing and social media advertising to oppose the increase, Stevens said.