Auditor responds to city’s lawsuit

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The City of Fort Wayne is in search of money which may have ended up in the wrong place because of a mistake.

The dark spots show the areas annexed by Fort Wayne that had coverage from Southwest Allen Fire.
The dark spots show the areas annexed by Fort Wayne that had coverage from Southwest Allen Fire.

Attorneys from Eilbacher Fletcher, LLP filed a lawsuit against Southwest Allen County Fire and Allen County Auditor Tera Klutz. The complaint says after several annexations, property tax revenue continued going to Southwest Allen instead of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, which started covering those homes.

It refers to state codes that say, in part: “Any area that is part of a fire protection district and is annexed by a municipality that is not part of the district ceases to be a part of the fire protection district when the municipality begins to provide fire protection services to the area.”

The City of Fort Wayne puts the blame on Klutz. The complaint says she misread the statute and directed the tax revenue to Southwest Fire instead of the city.

A letter from the city was first sent to the fire department in August of 2014.

Allen County Auditor Tera Klutz
Allen County Auditor Tera Klutz

While no amount of money was specified, the city claims there has been suffering and continues to be suffering of a significant loss of revenue as a result of Klutz’s mistake.

A statement sent to NewsChannel 15 on Friday, stated that this lawsuit “doesn’t affect our working relationship with the SWFD, which is excellent.”

Attorneys for Southwest Allen County Fire received the complaint on Thursday and said they will have a response after going over the situation.

On Tuesday, Klutz issued a statement of her own, in which she said she interprets the specific statute different than the city did.

As Allen County Auditor, my office is committed to providing accurate accounting, reporting, and auditing services to citizens and governmental tax units in accordance with federal, state and local laws in an efficient and cost effective manner. I have reviewed the lawsuit and disagree with its contentions. This lawsuit involves the interpretation and application of an Indiana statute that is specific to a municipality’s annexation of land situated in a pre-existing fire district and the resulting collection of taxes for fire protection services. The City of Fort Wayne disagrees with the manner in which this statute has been applied. I have provided the City of Fort Wayne with a review of the relevant taxing and annexation statutes along with an advisory opinion from the Indiana Attorney General and Indiana State Board of Tax Commissioners each of which are consistent with my office’s current application of the law.”

Klutz said the county’s legal counsel would respond to the lawsuit accordingly.

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