By VICKI URBANIK
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.