As Fort Wayne’s riverfront development project begins construction this summer, the city is looking to fill some long-term funding holes in the project. A new proposal in City Council to help fund the project would increase the local income tax.
Fort Wayne’s current income tax rate stands at 1.35 percent, below the Indiana state average of 1.59 for municipalities. City Councilman John Crawford is proposing a 0.15 percent increase to the local income tax, which would bring the tax to 1.5 percent, still below the state average.
Crawford says the city would need $100 million to invest in future phases of the development as well as long-term maintenance, and that revenue stream doesn’t currently exist.
“For all the projects I’ve ever seen, this is the most popular one I’ve ever seen,” says Crawford. “To have it done first-class and in a reasonable amount of time, there needs to be an increase.”
Here’s the math: a household earning $49,000 a year would see an increase of $6 a month on their income taxes, or $73 per year. Total revenue from the county for the tax increase would be $13 million, $9.6 million of which would go to Fort Wayne.
Crawford was joined by Mayor Tom Henry as well as Councilmen Glynn Hines, Tom Didier and Tom Freistroffer in support of the measure.
Another focus of this proposed revenue stream would be city infrastructure, primarily to help repair damaged alleys and sidewalks, as well as build new ones.
Henry says investing in the city’s alleyways has been long overdue in Fort Wayne.
“This is where our garbage trucks and recycling trucks go, so they’re necessary,” says Henry. “One hundred and fifty miles of alleys that have gone unaddressed for the last 50, 60, 70 years, we need to step up to the plate and say these are areas we need to address.”
Councilman Didier says improving the conditions of Fort Wayne’s sidewalks has become a necessity, particularly for students and parents in local school districts.
“The state took away bus transportation for some of the schools, and from that standpoint it’s extremely difficult,” says Didier. “These children have to walk to school now and I’m getting calls saying, ‘Hey, my children have to walk on the streets or in the grass to get where they need to go.’”
Didier says he’s excited about Crawford’s proposal, and hinted that the exact percentage of the proposed increase could go down.
Crawford added the increase would provide long-term benefits to residents in Fort Wayne outside of simply development of the riverfront and infrastructure.
“Sometimes we hear, ‘I don’t care about the riverfront, I’m never going to go there,’ Crawford says. “Well, it will affect you even if you don’t go by making the average income of the city go up, because that will decrease tax rates.”
Crawford closed his remarks by saying that, if the proposed tax increase didn’t happen, the riverfront project will still happen, but it would be “cheaper” and take longer to complete.
The measure is expected to be presented to council in late-June, following two public forums to discuss the matter with constituents. The hopeful date of the final vote is set for July 11.