Mayors fight for "fair" property tax reform

The deadline for Indiana lawmakers to pass a property tax relief package is now about a month away.

Critics are making one last push to alter the proposal that’s now on the table.

“If South Bend loses $25 million a year, if all the units of government in St. Joseph County lose a total of $65 million a year, we will see key services gone,” said Mayor Stephen Luecke. “There’s no other way around it, this is not cutting fat out of our budget, this is cutting muscle and cutting bone.”

While critics aren’t pushing the panic button, they’re apparently not afraid to call 9-1-1.

At a news conference Tuesday, the Mayors of South Bend and Mishawaka, were flanked by dozens of police and firefighters. They are the kind of public safety workers who may be laid off if property tax reform passes, as is.

Mishawaka Mayor Jeff Rea has been giving the plan careful consideration, and he’s not sure he likes what he sees.

“I did an analysis of my property tax relief on my home,” Rea said, “it would be about $600. My new income tax that I’ll pay will be about $600, and I’ll get the opportunity to pay a 1% sales tax on what I already pay, so ultimately am I better off with this than I was before? I don’t know.”

Making up the $65 million lost to property tax relief, would require a 1.2% increase in local income taxes.

And that would require local officials to act.

“In St. Joseph County, we’re losing $65 million a year,” said South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke. “Not because of anything that we’ve done; it seems to me those dollars ought to be replaced by the group that’s taking them away.”

Luecke wants state lawmakers to impose mandatory income taxes in communities that are hard hit by property tax reform.

Both mayors hope that some of their ideas for change are adopted as amendments in a Senate committee next week.

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