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The Journal Gazette

September 20, 2016 1:01 AM

Quality of life is put at risk

Phil Downs

Local property taxes are vital for public schools in Indiana. These taxes pay for school building maintenance, information technology, parking lots, grounds, buses, bus drivers and any debts owed. The entire southwest community – individuals, families, businesses and commercial property owners – shares these costs as well as the benefits they provide.

City Councilman Jason Arp is proposing to phase out the business personal property tax for all of Allen County. In this era of tax caps, this proposal will increase property taxes for the taxpayers of Allen County whose property is not at the maximum rate. If this proposal is passed as written, those tax increases likely will not offset the losses incurred by shifting the tax burden. Many property owners would be paying more tax and getting fewer services. In southwest Allen County, these services have already been affected and are vital to families, students and staff.

If the property tax increases do not match the revenue lost, Arp’s proposal calls for potentially using a local option income tax to make up any difference in revenue. It would need to be raised by the Allen County Tax Council, which is controlled by Fort Wayne’s City Council.

This is not a tax cut for everyone. It is a tax cut for a few that shifts the tax burden to many. The proposal then offers to make up any revenue lost by possibly raising income taxes in a manner such that all other taxing entities would have to depend on City Council to raise that tax.

Arp’s proposal is an attempt to create a more business-friendly environment. While much of the research on incentivizing businesses to locate to communities is inconclusive, there are some factors that tend to show up over and over. Those factors are quality-of-life measures such as great schools, attractive amenities and services for families. Indiana is already a leading business-friendly state, and Allen County boasts outstanding schools, amenities and services. Fort Wayne is currently very attractive.

Recent events have shown the interconnectedness of all of the county taxing entities. Any change in tax policy affects us all and the services we provide. If Allen County wishes to reconsider how it generates its revenue, that conversation must be one where all taxing entities have a seat at the proverbial table. The current proposal does not meet that consideration and is far too speculative. SACS stands in opposition and encourages the Fort Wayne City Council to vote no.


Phil Downs is superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools.