Chesterton Tribune

 

 

City of Valpo derails airport TIF plan backed by schools

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

One motion away from becoming the first tax increment finance area in unincorporated Porter County, the County Commissioners put the so-called Airport TIF and Economic Development Area on hold to study the City of Valparaiso’s proposal of creating an “Airport Development Zone” instead.

The zone would be at the Porter County Regional Airport located in Washington Township on the northeast corner of U.S. 30 and Ind. 49.

A hearing and vote on the TIF had been on the Commissioners’ agenda for Tuesday.

RDC member and Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said the RDC had approved 40 percent of TIF revenue going to local taxing units while the remaining 60 percent would be retained for economic development projects within the proposed zone.

Language was added to the resolution requested by East Porter County Schools that would give a school district the authority to veto a change to the allocation agreement.

It also favored giving extra shares of TIF money to the schools in the form of grants for educational programming related to economic development.

In May, the City of Valparaiso came before the RDC with “some objections,” Thompson said, and instead sought a cooperative effort with the County to create an ADZ which would need to be created through a new state statute.

There are seven ADZs in Indiana created with special legislation, Thompson said, including the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Either an Airport Authority Board or the County Commissioners could collect the funds, not an RDC, he said. The guidelines for expenditures in an ADZ are “very specific” in that revenues could only be used for development or training programs at the airport, Thompson said. None would be passed to local taxing units, he said.

The airport could also potentially become a foreign trade zone which would mean reductions on tariffs on importing items, Thompson said. To become a foreign trade zone, a specific item must be exported out of the airport, he added.

Thompson said he didn’t know if an ADZ was a prerequisite for a foreign trade zone but it could not be done under a TIF.

He also said Valparaiso has the utilities needed to accomplish tasks outlined in the “In Plane View,” plan, a guide for the airport’s development. If TIF’d, the city could not annex any of the area, he said.

Another concern the city had was that the 60/40 agreement would set a precedent as well as giving the schools the power to block proposed changes to the agreement.

County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, asked what the opinion of the RDC was on the city’s proposal. Thompson said no recommendation was made and it was left to the Commissioners to decide how to go forward.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he did “not want to be ungrateful to the (RDC) for doing a yeomen’s task” in putting the plan together but said he would like to wait to hear from state lawmakers before taking action.

He also said that the area would not be able to get utilities from anywhere but Valparaiso. “I think we would be remiss if we don’t go forward with that.”

Blaney moved to table the TIF resolution as East Porter Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin raised objections to the ADZ not passing property tax revenue on to local governing entities.

“I understand economic growth keeps our county vitalized but we need to make sure that growth is helpful to all (taxing units) who provide resources throughout the county,” Gardin said.

As far as the 60/40 tax revenue split, Gardin said his school district already has the same type of agreement with Valparaiso in the Porter Vale area.

Gardin asked more than once what benefits an ADZ could provide that a TIF zone could not.

Evans said that is something he would like to find out by gathering information. “I think we have a situation that requires a little more study,” said Evans, who added that he doesn’t want to have regrets later.

Gardin said he believed the Commissioners had the power to dissolve a TIF if there is a need to once the ADZ concept is studied and asked that they go forward with the resolution.

There is no guarantee that the ADZ legislation would be passed, he said.

While not at the meeting, RDC president E. Ric Frataccia told the Chesterton Tribune last week he agreed the measure should be tabled. Frataccia is the superintendent of Portage Twp. Schools, which would not be covered by either the TIF or the ADZ.

Blaney said the motion to table does not mean she was in favor of an ADZ, but “just wanted to learn more about it first.”

Also voting to table was Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center.

This marks the second time a County TIF plan has been shelved. The County Redevelopment Commission also tabled a proposed TIF district at U.S. 6 near Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Township.

 

Posted 6/4/2014