Chesterton Tribune

Efficiency measure: Government spending varies widely in Duneland's towns

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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.




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, 29,516.

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 94 cents).

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 $19.22).

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.


Posted 9/27/2007