City Councilman: ‘wheel tax’ proposal could have been avoided

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Fort Wayne City Councilman Geoff Paddock said the proposed ordinance to create an excise and wheel surtax for vehicles registered within the city limits could have been avoided if the controversial North IV annexation plan was approved.

The so-called ‘wheel tax’ proposal would allow the City of Fort Wayne to charge $25 for passenger vehicles and $40 for larger vehicles, such as buses, tractor-trailers and recreational vehicles. That would generate roughly $6.7 million dollars to be used for street repair and maintenance.

Republican City Councilman John Crawford introduced the bill at the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Crawford said the cost of improving roads is going up, but funding is down, which puts the city of Fort Wayne in a difficult spot.

“We sort of have a painful but simple choice,” he said. “If we add funding then we can maintain the streets and continue to improve them each year. If we don’t, the streets will continue to deteriorate and get worse each year. You really don’t want to do either. You hate to pass a tax but on the other hand you don’t want to see the roads get worse.”

Councilman Paddock said he is not opposed to the idea, but said City Council already had a solution that would fund roads and infrastructure. It was voted down.

“Had Mayor Henry’s annexation plan gone forward we would have an additional $10 million dollars brought in,” he said. “And maybe half of it could have been used for this particular issue.”

The annexation proposal included 23 square miles of property and would’ve brought 22,000 people into the city limits. It meant more tax revenue for the city, but it could’ve cost Allen County $5.4 million a year. There was also concern that some school districts and city service jobs might have suffered as a result.

Paddock said since the annexation proposal was voted down City Council has to consider other ways to get the funding.

“Now we look at a plan B to see where we could find additional funds and this is one way to go,” said Paddock.

Paddock said this could be a good alternative that would draw support across party lines.

“This is one plan that Councilman Crawford has come up with that may have some bipartisan appeal,” said Paddock. “Id this could continue with some bipartisan support, and pass in a bipartisan way, it might be something appealing to continue to bring forward.”

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