Two City Council Members Ask State Agency To Repeal Planned City Tax Hike

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

November 30, 2010 Updated Nov 30, 2010 at 7:22 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Fort Wayne city taxpayers would be spared a property tax hike in 2011, if a state agency goes along with the wishes of two Republican city council members.

The city budget was in the spotlight Tuesday during a public hearing.

The city council members mentioned find themselves at odds with Mayor Tom Henry's administration over the budget.

How to pay for maintenance of hundreds of fire hydrants in Fort Wayne is a primary point of contention.

Council member At-Large, Liz Brown, told a representative from the Department of Local Government Finance that a planned $2.9-million tax increase is no longer necessary, because city council eliminated a fire hydrant maintenance expenditure from the city’s general fund during the budget process earlier this fall.

4th District Councilman Mitch Harper crusaded for the hydrant fee change, claiming some city residents in Aboite Township were double-charged for the service.

Because city utilities now must come up with hydrant maintenance money, Liz Brown says taxpayers should get a break.

Liz Brown/(R) Fort Wayne Council At Large: " I think it's pretty clear when you go through the budget, that we don't need the extra property tax levy that we could collect, and we shouldn't collect it for next year."

Frank Suarez/Fort Wayne City Utilities: " We believe it's a little bit premature to say, let's cut the levy, because certainly it is something that needs to be maintained, and it's very important to the safety of the public."

If the money for hydrant maintenance doesn't come out of the general fund budget for Fort Wayne, it must come from someplace else.

The Henry administration argues, it would be no better for city residents if their water and sewer rates have to go up to ensure the hydrant upkeep.

The Department of Local Government Finance, that must ratify all government budgets, is expected to sort out the dispute before the end of the year.

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