Tax cuts eyed by South Bend candidates

If Wednesday is any indication, taxes have nowhere to go but down in St. Joseph County.

Wednesday marked the first opportunity for candidates to file the paperwork that would place their names on the May 3rd primary ballot in Indiana.

“It’ll be actually to take the wheel tax (in St. Joseph County) and cut it in half, to cut it by 50-percent,” said Mike Hamann, as he outlined the first pledge of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for mayor of South Bend.

“That’s gonna result in a decrease of income for the cities of South Bend, Mishawaka, and St. Joseph County,” Hamann said of his proposal. “”Okay, I understand that, but when I’m looking at some of the reserves that we’ve built up in some of the CEDIT, COIT, Major Moves, especially in the City of South Bend, they’ve got some pretty major reserves built up, we’ll be able to handle this.”

The December controller’s cash report for South Bend shows that the city had a $58.1 million balance in its Tax Incremental Financing Account prompting further discomfort about the current level of local taxes.

“As we are seeing some requests for pay raises and combining pay rates that we want to make sure that we're not taking advantage of the LOIT that we passed in October of 2009,” said Rouse.

Recently, a majority of the South Bend Common Council members also balked at a plan to use local income tax dollars to make improvements to Coveleski Stadium.

“To answer your question directly there is a procedure by state law that you can, as well as you raise the taxes, you can reduce the tax,” said Rouse.

On the same day Rouse filed his political paperwork to become a candidate in the 4th district council race; he also co-sponsored a resolution before the South Bend Common Council that calls for a financial summit to discuss local taxation.

The summit would allow representatives of South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County to “discuss and explore financing of governmental services…”

Various income generating methods such as the CEDIT tax can only be reduced between March 31st and July 31st.

Mayoral candidate Hamann won’t have to wait to get to work on his campaign pledge.

Hamann is now a St. Joseph County Councilman who will file his wheel tax reduction proposal before that body for discussion in February.

The St. Joseph County wheel tax is now $25 per car, per year.

Hamann’s proposal would cut that to $12.50.

That pledge alone would cost South Bend $1 million in road repair dollars.

“You know, Mishawaka, they don’t get a lot of the wheel tax revenues, it’s somewhere around $800-thousand compared to St. Joseph County which is $2.6 million and South Bend is $2 million but I mean we want to make sure we can, we don’t want to disrupt any major project going forward, we don’t want to do that, we don’t want to do something irresponsible,” said Hamann.

While Hamann was the only candidate to file for the South Bend mayor’s race Wednesday, Ryan Dvorak plans to file his candidacy Friday afternoon.

Rev. Timothy Rouse is now an incumbent councilman at large, but Wednesday he filed to run in the 4th district.

The 4th district council seat is being vacated by Ann Puzzello who decided not to seek re-election.

With the political season now underway, the kind of talk that broke out in the basement of the courthouse today could be headed to a doorstep near you.

“My goal is to hit the ground running,” said Cole Belt who filed his candidacy for the Republican nomination in South Bend’s 3rd district council race. “I’m planning on knocking on as many doors and shaking as many hands as possible.”

Meantime, Oliver Davis filed for re-election to his 6th district seat on the South Bend Common Council.

“I understand that we have to put everything on the table, and look at where we are to go,” said Oliver Davis.

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