Fort Wayne councilmen, mayor call for tax hike to fund riverfront

The South Dock Amphitheatre is shown in the background of this rendering of the regional Riverfront Development Project. (City of Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Four Fort Wayne city councilmen and Mayor Tom Henry on Friday called for a local income tax hike to fund the city’s planned riverfront development.

Councilmen John Crawford, Tom Didier, Tom Freistroffer and Glynn Hines, along with Henry and representatives from Fort Wayne Community Schools, on Friday proposed an “adjustment” in the city’s local income tax that would raise $9.6 million annually for riverfront and neighborhood sidewalk and alleys. The announcement came at a news conference at Citizens Square.

The plan calls for a .15 percent increase in the local income tax. The officials said the average household with an income of $49,000 would see an increase of $6 per month or $73 a year under the proposal.

The funds would go toward the city’s planned $79 million riverfront development plan. It would also support a $40 million project to create 40 miles of sidewalks that would connect city neighborhoods to schools, and repair existing sidewalks and alleyways.

“Enthusiasm to proceed with the full scope of riverfront development is high among the great majority of citizens. Having a vibrant and thriving riverfront destination is will allow the City of Fort Wayne to attract and retain high-paying jobs and top talent which will ensure that our economy continues to grow far into the future,” said Crawford. “Having a strong neighborhood core for citizens to reside is imperative to the health of Fort Wayne. Improving our infrastructure in making sure that there are sidewalks for every child to walk to school on and that our neighborhoods are connected is paramount to the overall health of the community. I am thankful for the strong leadership of these members of the Fort Wayne City Council who are standing with me today and Mayor Henry, who are all committed to moving our city forward.”

Henry said the riverfront development would be an opportunity to continue the positive momentum he’s seeing in the city. Henry said the downtown is thriving, neighborhoods are prospering and businesses are growing in Fort Wayne.

Creating “quality-of-live amenities” like a riverfront area would make the city and region even more attractive, the mayor said.

“The City of Fort Wayne is experiencing momentum and investments like never before. Our downtown is thriving, neighborhoods are growing and we’re seeing a positive business climate with job growth and expansion projects,” said Henry. “In order to continue to see successes, though, we can’t stop now. We must remain committed to moving forward in the right direction to make Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana a point of destination. I applaud Councilman Crawford for his leadership on this issue. Through strong fiscal management and bipartisan efforts, this proposal is a collective effort and an example of our commitment to providing opportunities and making a meaningful difference.”

The proposal will be presented to City Council in June. A final vote is expected in July. The process will also include public hearings.