News release from the Fort Wayne City Council:
Councilmen offer fiscal reforms
“Sustainable budget without income tax increases”
(May 14, 2013) – City Councilmen Mitch Harper, R-4th and Russ Jehl, R-2nd today shared highlights of their vision for changes to the 2014 City Budget without raising income taxes. The councilmen are opposed to the proposed 0.5% Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) as a means of increasing the revenue stream to the city’s General Fund.
Today’s event kicks off the anticipated series of discussions by the full Council at their regular meetings, to address the structural deficit in the city budget, currently at $6.5 million dollars. The Mayor’s Fiscal Policy Group met for a year to complete a “framework of ideas” for increasing revenues and decreasing expenditures. They presented recommendations to the City Council in March; the legislative body must debate their merits and come to consensus in changes to the 2014 City budget.
“The challenge is clear. Let’s make sure we act in the most responsible way possible,” Harper stated. “Solutions that spend less hard earned tax dollars than we take in while funding our priorities should be the best answer.”
Councilors Harper and Jehl believe that the city’s budget can move from the red to the black and set on a path to sustainability–city services and necessary departmental budgets can be met for streets, parks and public safety and a healthy cash balance can be restored–without raising income taxes. Through a variety of sources that include new revenue streams coming online, banked levy, spending cuts and new state funding, Fort Wayne’s fiscal health can be achieved in 2014.
The solutions that Harper and Jehl offer will increase funding for neglected core city responsibilities for capital expenditures such as new police cars, fire equipment and new buildings.
“An income tax increase is a big deal. Raising income taxes must be the option of last resort and we aren’t there yet,” said Jehl. “I oppose a LOIT because it will hurt hardworking families and is not merited.”
The Fiscal Policy Group’s other recommendations besides LOITs include annexation, a property tax called Cumulative Capital Development Fund, changes to city employees’ benefits and modest Legacy Fund allocations. The two Councilmen endorse many of these other proposals and note there is common ground to work with outside of the LOIT proposal.
A complete presentation of the Harper and Jehl proposal for an “alternative framework of ideas” will be presented at the City Council meeting tonight at 5:30 pm in Council Chambers, Rm. 25 in the Citizens Square Building.