The victors in Tuesday’s Porter County Commissioner and Porter County
Council district races will be part of the group holding the purse strings
for the almost $9 million in interest from the sale of the county’s Porter
Under a county resolution, the commissioners and council members are
restricted from using the roughly $170 million amount in hospital proceeds
until 2012, five years after the sale, unless both bodies unanimously agree,
but the interest is available for spending.
Candidates in both races say the money should be used to benefit the county
economically, but differ as to which method is the best.
In Duneland’s County Council District 1 race, Democrat incumbent Robert
Poparad says that half of the interest should go to benefit property
taxpayers. He feels that the county should hold off from lending the money
to other groups or businesses, making it a point not to show favoritism.
For the other portions of the interest, Poparad proposes setting aside the
rest to grow even more interest and store the remaining interest as
emergency money. Poparad advocates the county never touch the principle and
invest it instead.
Challenging Poparad for his seat is Republican candidate Jim Biggs, a former
county commissioner. Biggs favors using the interest to fund economic
Biggs believes that national and state funds will be drying up and that the
interest money will be needed to fill the gap.
More recently, Biggs has proposed that the hospital money be used to help
municipal taxing units pay off the bonds they had to borrow as a result of
late tax draws. The total debt obligation is more than $48 million with
approximately $5 million paid this year by the taxpayers with $1.7 million
Biggs said he would like to see more money be given to infrastructure and
the Porter County sheriff’s police, believing the first role of government
is to ensure the safety of its citizens. Poparad on the other hand believes
that the council has adequately funded the sheriff, jail, and the rest of
county services while remaining fiscally conservative.
Both men are in favor of the property tax cap proposed by state legislators.
Biggs said the caps would require the county to think outside-the-box in
order to keep delivering quality services with fewer tax dollars while
Poparad said lower taxes will be a strong incentive for business to operate
in Porter County.
The caps are also supported by both county commissioner center district
candidates, Democratic incumbent Robert Harper and Republican challenger
Strongbow Restaurant owner Adams feels stronger property tax reform is
needed in how the state figures assessed properties. She was one of the
co-founders of the local group Indiana People Advocating Reasonable
Adams has focused her platform on starting a master plan for the county,
arguing that the county is currently lacking a plan for environmental and
economic growth. Developing a growth management plan pooling input from
county department heads, elected officials, municipalities, and business
leaders would be the best thing the county can do regarding inevitable
growth, she said.
Harper agrees that growth must be managed and pledges to keep the county’s
rural setting as opposed to “putting up strip malls.” He said that Porter
County is among the top fastest growing counties in the state and credits
that to low crime and low tax rates.
Harper said he stands firm against the implementation of any new county
income taxes and has opposed regional partnerships with Lake County like the
RDA which the county pays into $3.5 million per year from a .025 income tax.
Adams said she is against the idea of tax increases, but would allow them if
proper research is done to determine if the county would benefit. She said
the county does not have to “jump” into partnerships with neighboring
counties, but they should at least be acknowledged and, if able, we should
Harper believes that county government can be run efficiently with the money
that is allotted. He said he would like to purchase more equipment for
county law enforcement. Adams believes that more should be given to county
venues like the Porter County Animal Shelter.
Like Poparad, Harper agrees to give breaks to property taxpayers with the
hospital interest while Adams would not agree to the fairness of the idea
since not every resident in Porter County is a property owner.
Harper said the county commissioners and council need to have a “grand
meeting” to determine the perimeters of hospital fund use.
Adams would like to see the money be used for job growth.
“I hope that our children can choose to live and work in Porter County,” she