Editor’s Note: Voters in Burns Harbor, Porter and Chesterton
go to the polls Nov. 6 to elect Town Councils to serve for the next four
years. As a service to voters Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers has compared per
capita spending of the three towns and nearby Valparaiso. Per capita spending
is the amount spent per resident on a specific governmental department. His
investigation reveals wide disparities in spending town vs. town and
department vs. department.
By KEVIN NEVERS
In the run-up to the municipal election on Nov. 6, it’s likely that
candidates and voters alike will be talking about the quality, even the
quantity, of the services provided by the Tri-Towns.
Put the question this way: what are the spending priorities of Chesterton,
Porter, and Burns Harbor?
In answer to that question, the Chesterton Tribune has attempted to calculate
the per capita spending of each of the three towns, along with that of the
City of Valparaiso, in nine categories: Government and Administration; Parks
and Recreation; Police; Fire; Sanitary Sewer; Stormwater; Streets;
Infrastructure; and Economic Development.
The Tribune has based its calculations on a review of the 2006 appropriation
reports prepared by each municipality for the State Board of Accounts, and on
the 2006 population estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau:
Chesterton, 12,456; Porter, 5,313; Burns Harbor, 1,015; and Valparaiso,
Government and Administration
In the category of Government and Administration the Tribune has lumped those
expenses—including salaries, wages, and benefits—associated with the
Clerk-Treasurer’s or Mayor’s Office; the Building Department; Legal; Planning
and Engineering; and bodies like the Town or Common Council, Advisory Plan
Commission, and Board of Zoning Appeals.
Government and Administration may also include the expenses associated with
the purchase of computer software or hardware and office equipment; building
maintenance and improvements; utilities; and consulting services.
Any given municipality defrays the bulk of Government and Administration
expenses through the General Fund. But it may also supplement the General
Fund with moneys from other sources, such as its share of the County Economic
Development Income Tax (CEDIT) or—in one case—revenues from its tax increment
financing (TIF) district.
Total and per capita spending on Government and Administration in 2006:
Chesterton: total $2,632,217; per capita $211.32. Included in that total are
$42,263 in CEDIT spent on computers, telephones, copiers, and miscellaneous
(per capita $3.40) ; and $11,807 in CEDIT spent on the continued mitigation
of the former underground storage tank site behind the town hall (per capita
Porter: total $823,636; per capita $174.87. Included in that total is
$102,137 in TIF spent on bond repayments for the town hall (per capita
Burns Harbor: total $529,573; per capita $521.75.
Valparaiso: total $6,953,774; per capita $235.59. The City of Valparaiso has
two expenses which the Tri-Towns do not: the Mayor’s Office at $270,796 (per
capita $3.20); and the Cemetery Department at $38,747 (per capita $1.31).
Also included in that total are $26,831 in CEDIT spent on “facility
improvement studies” (per capita 91 cents); $8,607 from an Indiana Department
of Commerce loan on HVAC for city hall (per capita 29 cents) ; and $23,650
from the Capital Equipment Fund on equipment for Planning and Engineering
(per capita 80 cents).
Indebtedness and Interest
Total and per capita indebtedness as of Dec. 31, 2006:
Chesterton: total $5,119,000; per capita $410.97.
Porter: total $1,042,120; per capita $196.15.
Burns Harbor: total $5,130,000; per capita $5,054.19.
Valparaiso: total $44,741,394; per capita $1,515.84.
Total and per capita interest paments in 2006:
Chesterton: total $205,144; per capita $16.47.
Porter: total $59,084; per capita $11.12.
Burns Harbor: total $125,552; per capita $123.70.
Valparaiso: total $1,750,152; per capita $59.30.