In what could turn out to be a long, challenging budget year, the Porter
County Council didn’t even break a sweat on Wednesday kicking off the
sessions by approving a first reading of budget estimates in a matter of 15
All seven Council members gave “yea” votes to 2014 proposed budgets which
includes an estimate of $46,255,237 for the County’s General Fund.
Council President Bob Poparad, D-At Large, then opened the public hearing
for the budgets, but not one person came up to speak nor signed in.
Sitting in the audience, however, were a few County department heads as well
as municipal officials waiting to hear if the Council would approve their
2014 estimated budgets to submit to the state.
County Councils are to give a non-binding review of the budgets from all
taxing units within their counties.
From Porter County’s 32 municipal budgets, the Council’s financial
specialist Vicki Urbanik reported a mix of taxing units, those whose figures
exceed their levies with the 2.6 percent growth quotient limit and those
which were under.
She said levies that either met or fell below the growth quotient amount
were Center Twp. Trustee, Portage Twp. Trustee, Union Twp. Trustee,
Washington Twp. Trustee, Westchester Twp. Trustee, Porter County Public
Library, Westchester Public Library, Indian Boundary Conservancy District,
Nature Works Conservancy District, and White Oaks Conservancy District.
Those received a positive recommendation from the Council 7-0.
But those who advertised over their growth quotient were denied a favorable
vote. Those included several town and township budgets including Chesterton,
Porter and Burns Harbor, as well as Boone Twp. Trustee, Jackson Twp.
Trustee, Liberty Twp. Trustee, Morgan Twp. Trustee, Pine Twp. Trustee,
Pleasant Twp. Trustee, Porter Twp. Trustee, the Damon Run Conservancy
District and the Valparaiso Area Lakes Conservancy District.
Urbanik reported that her calculations indicated that Valparaiso Area Lakes
Conservancy District was over its levy by less than .1 of a percent.
The Council voted not to recommend those by a 5-2 vote. Those against the
motion were Council members Jim Polarek, R-4th, and Karen Conover, R-3rd.
Making the motion was Council member Dan Whitten, D-At Large, who pointed
out whether favorable or not, the Council’s vote is not a factor when the
state certifies the final budgets and levies. He said taxing units have
different reasons for going over the limit.
“If they’re entitled to a finger wagging rather than a thumbs up, that’s the
way it’s going to work out,” said Whitten.
Those who did not receive a recommendation will be asked by the Council to
lower their budgets to meet their growth quotient.
Urbanik said it is understandable that taxing units advertise above the
growth quotient in order to get the highest possible certified levy and if
it is advertised higher, “the state will cut it down anyway to meet the
Looking at what’s to come, Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said the
Council will have to look for ways to whittle down the $46 million general
fund estimate to meet the expected amount for the certified levy next year.
The certified budget for this year was $38 million after an advertised
budget of $44 million and Rivas said the 2014 budget could be as low as $34
That amount does not include the extra funds needed to operate Enhanced 911,
which will use up its rainy day funding next year, he said.
The Council will meet at 5 p.m. tonight for a special meeting inside the
County Administration Center to discuss challenges like E-911, the staffing
of the third pod at the County Jail, and the rising costs of health
The first group of budget second readings is next Tuesday, Sept. 17, with
the jail and County Commissioner funds up first.