Chesterton Tribune

It is official: No Bethlehem Steel tax payment

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Ending weeks of speculation, Bethlehem Steel Corp. announced this morning that it will not pay its $10.3 million property tax bill due on Tuesday and doesn’t expect to pay next year’s property taxes, either.

“Over the years, Bethlehem has taken great pride in its efforts to be a good corporate citizen,” states a press release issued this morning. “This conclusion was only reached after considerable review and deliberations. Bethlehem regrets the disruption and difficulty this situation may cause the county, its local governments, and all the citizens and other property taxpayers in Porter County.”

With the announcement, ongoing efforts to secure funding for local units of government now take on greater urgency.

Without emergency funding, the Duneland School officials said program cuts and staff layoffs are possible after the start of the year. Burns Harbor officials have told their department heads to expect to operate with only 13 percent of their funding.

Westchester Public Library is bracing for a shutdown of all facilities. And it was speculated earlier this week that the county government, which had already been struggling with its own financial crunch before Bethlehem declared bankruptcy on Oct. 15, may resort to a four-day work week and may make other sweeping budget cuts.

The Bethlehem statement said that the steelmaker notified Porter County officials today that it will not make the second installment of its tax payment due on Tuesday.

The tax payment was incurred on March 1, 2000 assessment date and is therefore a pre-petition obligation that cannot be paid under bankruptcy law, the statement says.

“Similarly, Bethlehem does not expect to pay the property taxes due in calendar year 2002 that were incurred on March 1, 2001,” the statement says.

Bethlehem spokesperson Bob Bilheimer said the steelmaker can make no other comments beyond the statement released today.


Posted 11/8/2001