Fort Wayne, county taxpayers will take hit

by David Speakman
Special to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Upon looking at the map in the March 8 Journal Gazette of the new Allen County proposed by the supporters of the Town of East Allen Communities, I was struck by what appears to be the biggest “town” in the state gobbling up the smaller Fort Wayne like some sort of deranged Pac Man.

Like many former Allen County residents, I was forced to move to Silicon Valley to get a good-paying technology job after college.

Although I have run into hundreds of transplanted Hoosiers here in California, I never put much credence into the thought that the county of my birth was really suffering from a “brain drain” – until now.

If the people in East Allen are stupid enough to be duped into thinking that voting to consolidate East Allen is anything other than having New Haven annex their homes, the brain drain is a reality.

Wake up, people – this is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald to finally get his wish – to lead a city that would dwarf Fort Wayne in area.

At least Fort Wayne has been honest with its annexation policies. New Haven has a history of rushing through hurried and ill-thought-out land grabs for years.

Overnight, a “town” of 53,000 residents would be born. It would be the largest so-called town in the state of Indiana – the next-largest is Fishers with 37,000 residents.

Overall, it would be the 12th most-populous municipality in the state, smaller than Lafayette but bigger than Elkhart. In sheer size, at 333 square miles, the “town” of East Allen would be bigger than New York City (303 square miles) and Chicago (227 square miles).

Additionally, even if the East Allen merger goes though, it still wouldn’t stop a Fort Wayne-Allen County merger by any means. In fact, it could hasten the need for a city-county merger because all of the East Allen tax money that the county now gets would go to New Haven coffers instead of the county’s treasury.

Allen County has bonds it must pay off well past 2009 when the new “town” would go into effect. Allen County, by law, must maintain East Allen bridges – but with less tax money. It would be forced to turn to Fort Wayne to help shoulder the financial burden imposed by the merged East Allen.

As a son of Allen County, I have good faith that I come from talented, intelligent and practical stock. I am confident that the voters of East Allen will reject this power grab by the mayor of New Haven that would force the county to either merge with Fort Wayne or raise taxes sharply to avoid bankruptcy.

That would cause higher taxes to all homes in Allen County – including the communities outside of East Allen who cannot vote on the matter, like Huntertown, Arcola, Dunfee, rural Churubusco, Lake Everett and even Fort Wayne.

If there is a financially forced merger of Fort Wayne and Allen County resulting from the East Allen consolidation – then, oddly, the town of East Allen could end up paying the highest taxes in the county – both “town” and county taxes. This could be doubly hard on those in East Allen who are in the Fort Wayne suburbs on Fort Wayne sewer/water who will be forced to permanently pay higher rates.

David Speakman, a former Allen County resident, is a freelance journalist based in San Jose, Calif.

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