All 10 members of Allen County's Council and Board of Commissioners have signed a letter asking their city counterparts to reconsider a proposed increase in local income taxes.
An increase of one-half of 1 percent is among several possibilities being considered to close a projected $6 million deficit in the city's 2014 budget. But according to the letter dated April 1 and signed by the three commissioners and seven council members, such a decision would be unfair because it “would leave our constituents who live in unincorporated portions of Allen County with little or no representation in the matter. They would be paying the same increase as those who live within the city limits of Fort Wayne, yet would fail to receive all of the benefits and services associated with the increased.”
The letter echoes concerns expressed by some council members March 21, who suggested the city's ability to impose a tax on county residents who cannot vote for city officials would amount to “taxation without representation.”
In the letter, the county officials ask the city to “thoroughly examine all methods for reducing expenditures and controlling costs before implementation of any income tax increase. We would welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue . . . before any final decisions are made.”
Although the county and other governments would receive a share of any income tax increase, Therese Brown noted Wednesday that some of the other proposals under consideration by the city could also affect the county's bottom line. Annexation, for example, would affect the county's share of income taxes and other revenues.
“We just wanted to make sure the city was aware” of our concerns, Brown said, acknowledging that the county would have liked to have been included in the task force that produced the recommendations now up for consideration.
At last month's meeting, some council members suggested the city should have followed the county model of cutting spending before considering a tax increase.
In a statement, spokesman John Perlich said the city appreciates that "elected officials from Allen County government are interested in this important topic. We look forward to having further discussions with them. The Fiscal Policy Group created by Mayor Henry has spent significant time evaluating and analyzing ways to save the community money and bring additional revenue to the city . . . The public and elected officials will have additional opportunities to learn more about the fiscal strategies at upcoming public meetings that were announced earlier this week."