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Tax pays off in sidewalks, alleys, council told

January 23, 2019

Allen County’s local income tax fund took in nearly $8.8 million in revenue in 2018, officials told the Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday. 

Of that amount, almost 1 million was spent on downtown riverfront efforts, including engineering, riverbank stabilization and annual maintenance. 

Tuesday’s presentation by City Controller Garry Morr and Director of Public Works Shan Gunawardena shows the local income tax increase : which City Council approved in 2017 : is working as intended, said Councilman John Crawford, R-at large. 

Allen County’s income tax rate is 1.48 percent. 

In December, city officials announced construction crews had performed about 3.3 miles of alley reconstruction work in 2018. That’s especially important for the 5th District, which encompasses all of downtown, said Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th. 

“Many of these alleys are 100 years old or more, several of them are crumbling. They have big ruts, they collect water and other debris,” Paddock said. “This is an important step for most residents who live in the central part of the city, to see this work moving forward.” 

Paddock said he’s heard from residents who appreciate the funding. 

“It’s an area that’s been untouched in many respects for decades,” he said. “This is needed, it’s a piece of infrastructure that’s been in place for 100 years in some cases and it’s beneficial to make sure they’re well maintained so they’re passable.”

But the caveat to doing sidewalks and alley projects out of the same fund as riverfront development means at some point, the level of investment will change, said Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd. He described the $6 million put toward alleys in 2018 as a temporary investment.

Starting in 2020, riverfront needs will cause some funding to shift, leaving between 3 million annually for sidewalks and alleys, Crawford said. 

“It was a temporary investment in the neighborhoods, although it’s a permanent tax,” Jehl said. “There will still be a lot of needs in the neighborhoods, even after the tax money has shifted toward riverfront.”

dgong@jg.net

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