Sweating The Details: Council Members Weigh In On Income Tax Hike Debate

By Jeff Neumeyer

May 16, 2013 Updated May 16, 2013 at 5:16 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Fort Wayne city council members face the unsettling experience of having to decide whether to approve an income tax hike for 2014.

Two council members came out this week, insisting that tax hike is not needed.

But how do some of the other council members feel?

We spoke with four other council members Thursday.

In some cases, they are trying to sort out exactly where they stand on the tax hike idea, and on how the city can generate enough money to keep public safety, infrastructure and other services on solid footing.

Democrat Mayor Tom Henry is asking for a half percent increase to hire more police officers and firefighters, to repair miles of city streets, and to fund a variety of other services citizens count on.

Republican City Council Members Russ Jehl and Mitch Harper say using other sources of revenue, like interest from the city's Legacy Fund and from new annexations can stave off the need for an income tax increase.

Democrat Council Member John Shoaff sees the issue differently.

He favors relying less on property tax revenue.

" I think part of the question here is how you balance income tax against property tax, and there's something I like about shifting some of the burden from the property owner to the income earner," said Shoaff, who is a council member at-large.

The council’s president tends not to agree with Shoaff’s perspective.

" If Russ and Mitch have some type of alternative by not raising the local option income tax, man, I'm all for it, and I think the business owners will be for it, and you know, the constituents will be for it," Republican Tom Didier said.

We also contacted 1st District Council Member Tom Smith, a Republican, and 5th District Council Member Geoff Paddock, who is a Democrat.

Both of them say they are keeping all options open.

Paddock says he'll be meeting with the mayor and city controller next week, in hopes of more firmly establishing his position on the issue.

The income tax hike could have some impact on the next mayor’s race.

Mitch Harper, who is crusading against the mayor’s income tax hike, has already announced he’s running in the Republican Primary in 2015. .

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