Fire Officials Project Substantial Losses In Proposed Tax Repeal

Aug 28, 2018

Credit Lisa Ryan/WBOI News

Fort Wayne fire officials project a significant loss of revenue if a proposal in City Council repealing the business personal property tax were to pass.

Fourth district councilman Jason Arp is making his second attempt to repeal the tax Tuesday night; he made his first in 2016, which failed on a 5-3 vote.

The tax is applied to new equipment for local businesses, and the revenue is streamlined to local services like schools, police and libraries. For businesses, this can result in savings around $55 million, but services will lose a reliable funding source.

According to deputy fire chief Adam O’Connor, his department faces a $6.2 million loss.

“Over 92 percent of our budget is just for wages and benefits, and so to take six million dollars out of it would cost us roughly 69 firefighters,” O'Connor said.

He adds that six of the city’s 18 fire stations would shut down if the tax is repealed.

The worries of the fire department are consistent with those of other affected service agencies. In July, Mayor Tom Henry, taxing units and homeowners spoke out against the tax, with the city budget taking a $17.7 million hit, and Fort Wayne Community Schools facing the second largest impact at $11.5 million.

The tax would also likely impede a joint effort from the city and fire department to hire 25 new firefighters in 2019; 15 of those possible hires would fall into the city budget.

A vote on the tax is expected Tuesday evening.