First, a few words about taxes. As we near the new year of 2003 there's no question that we're entering a period of great uncertainty about exactly how much property tax each of us will be paying in the future. Changes in other taxes passed by the state legislature will have an impact on property taxes. As you are probably well aware by now the Indiana sales tax went up from 5 to 6 % on December 1st. That's an unfortunate development that hits hardest those least able to pay but this additional state revenue will help minimize potential property tax increases. The business inventory tax will be phased out immediately for manufacturers and over a several year period for businesses such as auto dealers and big box retail stores. This change in taxation has been needed for a long time but may result in some upward pressure on property taxes. The fact that Indiana has had an inventory tax has hindered economic development in our state especially in comparison with many southern states that have no inventory tax. Reassessment coupled with the court-mandated shift of property taxes from businesses to home owners based more on true property values than in the past is the coming change in tax law that will have consequences that no one seems to be able to solidly predict. With these complex and somewhat unpredictable changes coming in the future the mayor and city council members are already looking hard at city budgets over the next 3-5 years. The goal remains to rely more on non-property tax revenue such as the current 1% county income tax as well as state revenue sources than on property taxes to fund city government activities including the police and fire departments, street resurfacing, and economic development. The City of Fort Wayne has a several million $ "reserve" balance which should also help keep property taxes lower. I'll do my best as your city councilman to keep a close eye on this issue that I'm aware is of great concern to many homeowners—especially those on fixed incomes.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with the owners of Gio's Restaurant on Bluffton Road. They have been actively involved in the effort to correct possible problems such as excessive noise, customers parking on nearby properties, etc. Neighbors and police officers tell me that the situation has improved quite a bit. Thanks and best of luck in your new business endeavor!!
The possibility of bringing high-speed rail service to Fort Wayne took a leap forward recently with the announcement that the Indiana Dept. of Transportation has decided that the future rail route will pass through Fort Wayne. The result of this decision will be that the proposed rail system will be constructed more economically on old railway right of way (passing through the old Baker Street station) and carry more passengers than if the route had run through South Bend as originally proposed. South Bend already has a rail link to Chicago that will be upgraded in the future. I'm a member of the High Speed Rail Task Force that has worked hard on this challenge to our community. Congratulations and thanks to all of those local citizens who turned out for the public meeting in 2001 to support high-speed rail. It will take a few years and lots of money to complete this great project but at least we're on the right track to a better future for Fort Wayne and its citizens.
The Citgo station at the corner of Ardmore and Engle Road made the news recently due to the frequent gasoline thefts that have occurred there during the last year. Fort Wayne Police Dept. officers have met with station managers and offered suggestions to help control the problem. I'm very concerned with this criminal activity for three reasons: the negative effect on the station's financial bottom line, the potential that any losses will be passed on as higher prices to consumers, and the possibility that gasoline thieves will commit other crimes in the area. I'll continue to work on this problem with the FWPD and station management.