The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 29, 2019 1:00 am

Residents fighting proposed bridge tax

County says $31.4 million needed for maintenance


A group of residents has challenged paying more in taxes to maintain Allen County's bridges.

The Neighborhoods United group filed 300 signed petitions Friday asking for a hearing on a proposed tax increase, Allen County Auditor Nick Jordan said Tuesday.

He said he will review the names to validate them as Allen County taxpayers and turn over at least 10 petitions – the required number – to the state Department of Local Government Finance so a public hearing can be scheduled.

In April, the Allen County commissioners approved an increase from $.0129 per $100 of assessed value to $.0224 for bridge maintenance. The vote was not a direct increase but allows the County Council to go as high as $.0224 when setting budgets and taxes in the fall, Jordan said.

The tax was described as revenue-neutral by the commissioners because it would generate the same amount of income as two bonds that would be retired.

A member of Neighborhoods United who spoke against the tax at a county council meeting in April, John Modezjewski, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

County officials said about $31.4 million will be needed to maintain bridges outside of Fort Wayne during the next eight years. Fort Wayne has decided to maintain its own bridges. However, all county residents would be taxed.

The tax would amount to about $9.50 a year for a home assessed at $100,000.

Jordan said the state requires that a notice of the hearing be given to the auditor's office and the first 10 verified taxpayers at least five days before the hearing.

He said he believed there would also be public advertisement of the time and date, but added that he had no experience with procedures of this type. He said the deadline for submitting petitions to the state was the end of the month.

At the hearing, testimony will be accepted from those opposed to and in favor of the tax, Jordan said. The hearing officer will then submit a report to the state agency, which must certify approval, disapproval or modification of the proposal to the county auditor.

It remains unclear what grounds would be enough to defeat the tax.

The first local public hearing on the proposal was not properly advertised, but the commissioners redid the public notice and conducted a hearing April 12, during which farmers and others objected to the higher bridge tax.

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