Thumbs Up, Or Thumbs Down On Income Tax Hike? Council Holds Public Hearing Tuesday

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 10, 2013 Updated Jun 10, 2013 at 5:32 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Getting the public's take on an income tax hike proposal for Fort Wayne City Government.

Citizens can share their views on the idea at a hearing Tuesday night.

There is disagreement inside city government on the income tax hike.

Mayor Tom Henry says we need a big jump in revenue to keep the city from slipping behind, but a couple of Republican council members say the income tax hike is not the way to secure the city’s future.

The mayor says boosting local income taxes by one-half of one percent could generate about $15-million a year, and help the city catch up on a backlog of roadwork, as well as hire more police and firefighters and pay for parks department upkeep that has been pushed to the back burner.

2nd District Council Member Russ Jehl says the city budget can be kept in good shape, without the new tax.

" That just seems excessive. We don't need to overtax, and not only that, we can get there without actually raising the income taxes," Jehl said.

" We've been working on this for over a year, so I think we've come to a sound, reasonable, fair, equitable solution to the needs of the city," said City Controller Pat Roller, who is crusading for the income tax hike.

Roller believes it’s a good idea, in part, because it diversifies the tax base.

The state has capped property taxes, so Roller counters this is a balanced approach to keeping local government healthy.

Jehl points to a number of other funding options.

He says some debt is coming off the books, such as an infrastructure project and a fire truck lease.

He thinks the city should also strongly consider decelerating the rate at which it pays off some debts still not retired.

In addition, he says there's every reason to believe some state funding will come in at levels higher than the mayor is acknowledging.

They are all things that will be on the table for discussion at Tuesday’s city council meeting set to begin at 5:30.

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