By KEVIN NEVERS
If a municipality’s streets are potholed, icy, choked with snow, elected
officials will hear about it fast.
The Street Department—or Department or Board of Public Works, as it’s
variously called—is responsible, among other things, for the maintenance of
public rights-of-way and sidewalks; the collection of leaves and brush; snow
removal; and—after a storm—the clearing of fallen trees and limbs.
A municipality pays for these activities through Motor Vehicle Highway (MVH)
and Local Roads & Streets (LR&S)—both of which are funded with state gas-tax
revenues—as well as through a dedicated property-tax rate and occasional
miscellaneous funds. The total of these moneys is intended to defray the
daily operations of the Street Department: salaries, wages, and benefits;
materials and equipment; fuel and salt; and paving, sidewalk replacement, and
other infrastructure projects.
(Chesterton and Porter appropriate the proceeds from the dedicated
property-tax rate directly to MVH; Burns Harbor to General Fund-Maintenance;
Valparaiso to General Fund-Board of Public Works.)
For some years now, however, the state has been cutting municipalities’ share
of gas-tax revenues, and MVH and LR&S have been shrinking accordingly. As a
result, some municipalities have begun to supplement the daily operations of
the Street Department by issuing bonds, using tax increment financing (TIF)
or county economic development income (CEDIT) funds, or even dipping into
Major Moves moneys in order to finance large-scale roadwork.
Some of that infrastructure is being planned or has been built as part of a
comprehensive Economic Development strategy. In Chesterton, for example, the
Redevelopment Commission is pursuing a facelift of the South Calumet Business
District which will include a major package of traffic improvements.
For the best possible apples-to-apples comparison, the
Chesterton Tribune has
calculated total and per capita spending in three different categories:
•Street-Daily Operations: chiefly MVH, LR&S, and General Fund-Maintenance or
General Fund-Board of Public Works but also any special expenditures on
equipment, materials, or supplies.
•Street-Infrastructure: any road, sidewalk, or other infrastructure project
whose hard construction cost is not defrayed through Street-Daily Operations.
•Economic Development: the costs associated with the design and eningeering
of infrastructure projects; advertising and promotion; grant-seeking; land
acquisition; and the salaries, wages, and benefits of municipal employees
specifically tasked to Economic Development.
Total and per capita spending on Street-Daily Operations in 2006:
Chesterton: total $994,130; per capita $79.81. Comprised of $822,034 in MVH
(per capita $66); $149,935 in LR&S (per capita $12.04); and $22,160 in CEDIT
for a loader (per capita $1.78).
Porter: total $409,760; per capita $77.12. Comprised of $390,409 in MVH (per
capita $73.48); and $19,350 in LR&S (per capita $3.64).
Burns Harbor: total $263,741; per capita $259.84. Comprised of $54,923 in MVH
(per capita $54.11); $50,000 in LR&S (per capita $49.26) and $158,818 in
General Fund-Maintenance (per capita $156.47).
Valparaiso: total $7,773,100; per capita $263.35. Comprised of $1,529,126 in MVH (per capita $51.81); $335,952 in LR&S (per capita $11.38); $5,340,391 in
General Fund-Board of Public Works (per capita $180.93); $394,732 for vehicle
maintenance (per capita $13.37); a total of $63,074 in CEDIT for signage,
trash containers, and fuel (per capita $2.14); $74,858 from Cumulative
Capital Development for materials (per capita $2.54); and $34,964 from the
Capital Equipment Fund for signage (per capita $1.19).
Total and per capita spending on Street-Infrastructure in 2006:
Chesterton: total $343,694; per capita $27.60. Comprised of $225,795 in CEDIT
for paving and sidewalks (per capita $18.13); and $117,898 in debt service on
a general obligation bond issued in 2001 for paving and sidewalks (per capita
Porter: total $0.00. The Tribune was unable to identify a separate
expenditure on Street-Infrastructure.
Burns Harbor: total $217,363; per capita $214.15. Comprised of $95,262 in
Major Moves funding for paving (per capita $93.85); $70,176 in CEDIT for
paving (per capita $69.14); and $51,924.70 in Rainy Day funding for paving
(per capita $51.16).
Valparaiso: total $2,938,396; per capita $99.53. Comprised of $664,546 in
unspecified funds for construction (per capita $22.51); $106,035 in debt
service on a bond issued in 2002 (per capita $3.59); a total of $801,238 in
CEDIT on intersections, the Downtown Improvement project, general road, and
pathways (per capita $27.15); and a total of $1,366,575 in TIF on the Vale
Park, Eastgate-Sturdy Road, and Calumet projects (per capita $46.30).
Total and per capita spending on Economic Development in 2006:
Chesterton: total $181,029; per capita $14.53. Comprised of $73,066 in CEDIT
on salaries, wages, and benefits of municipal employees tasked to economic
development (per capita $5.87); a total of $59,372 in CEDIT and TIF for
engineering consulting on the South Calumet Triangle project (per capita
$4.77); $30,904 in TIF on financial consulting for a review of records in the
Porter County Auditor’s Office (per capita $2.49); a total of $3,527 in CEDIT
on miscellaneous expenses like mileage, legal, and publishing (per capita 28
cents); a total of $7,416 in TIF on legal (per capita 60 cents); and a total
of $6,750 in TIF on surveying, mapping, and appraisals (per capita 54 cents).
Porter: total $114,714; per capita $21.59. Comprised of $37,603 in CEDIT on
engineering consulting for the Porter Beach water main project (per capita
$7.08); $73,816 in TIF on engineering consulting for the Orchard Pedestrian
Way project (per capita $13.89); and $3,293 in TIF on financial consulting
(per capita 62 cents).
Burns Harbor: total $0.00. The Tribune was unable to identify a separate
expenditure on Economic Development.
Valparaiso: total $17,091,161; per capita $579.05. Comprised of $115,299 in
unspecified moneys for a redevelopment bond (per capita $3.91); a total of
$474,047 in CEDIT for salaries, wages, and benefits of municipal employees
tasked to Economic Development, a transportation study, and miscellaneous
projects and grant matches (per capita $16.06); and a total of $16,501,814 in
TIF for administrative and legal expenses, financial and engineering
consulting, land acquisition, and a bond for the Vale Park Road,
Eastgate/Eastport, Triangle Roundabout, County Seat, and Downtown
Improvements projects (per capita $559.08).