Fort Wayne City Council approved a 0.13 percent increase to the local income tax rate Tuesday night, creating a revenue stream that will help pay for riverfront development and sidewalk and alley repairs.
Council voted 6-3 in favor of the increase. Councilman John Crawford, who initially proposed a 0.15 percent increase, spoke to the long-term benefits of passage.
“Any tax increase, nobody wants to do it. Nobody who’s a conservative republican wants to do it," said Crawford. "But sometimes, if you think it’s a good, long-term thing, it’s not a bad idea. I contend the baseball stadium was a much harder vote, and has been quite successful.”
A public comment period preceded the vote itself. Most speakers during the 45-minute comment period supported the measure, but several, like Dallas Cole, spoke against it. He says a tax increase is counterintuitive to the city’s goals.
“So who are you trying to attract: more single, young professionals that aren’t concerned with raising a family, don’t own a home and don’t see the issue with a tax increase?" Cole asked. "Or to attract and retain young professionals -- like myself -- who raise a family here, plant our roots here and help cultivate the community we are talking about?”
“The latter group isn’t going to come here or stay here if you walk down the path of tax increases. We will look elsewhere; many of us already are,” he said.
Council deliberated the proposed increase for nearly four hours before going to a vote. At large councilman Michael Barranda proposed amendments which sought to bring the increase down to 0.10 percent, but couldn’t muster enough support.
Councilman Jason Arp also argued there was no rush for a tax increase.
“I’m a reflection of my constituents who are wondering why this rush to raise income taxes without having discussed all the other possibilities of doing this; there’s been very little discussion on other avenues of how to raise these things without taxes,” Arp said.
Ultimately, Council agreed an increase of 0.13 percent would generate the revenue needed to move forward with riverfront and sidewalk and alley projects. The dissenting votes were councilmen Arp, Paul Ensley and Russ Jehl; Barranda ultimately voted in favor, citing a desire to foster a greater spirit of collaboration among members.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry was enthusiastic over the passage. In a statement, Henry says, “It’s a next step to help ensure we continue to experience momentum with a thriving downtown, strong neighborhoods and a positive business climate with job growth and expansion projects as a point of destination city.”
Following the vote, Crawford was not only pleased with the outcome, but also the civility in discourse between the support and opposition of the measure.
“We had really good public hearings, I was rather inspired by some of the comments," said Crawford. "We listened some, we moderated from the 0.15, we ended up in a good place for sidewalks, alleys and riverfront, and we had a 6-3 vote instead of a 5-4; I always think that’s better.”
The increase would bring the local income tax rate to 1.48 percent, matching Whitley County’s rate and still below the state average, which is 1.59 percent. The increase will go into effect on October 1.