Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Commissioners approve airport area TIF district

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County took a major step to implementing its first ever tax increment finance (TIF) district Tuesday with a 3-0 vote from the Board of Commissioners approving the declaratory resolution.

This clears the way for the County Redevelopment Commission to begin work on a confirmatory resolution to establish a redevelopment area around the Porter County Regional Airport.

RDC member and Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said the area would extend from the airport to the city limits of Valparaiso on its west border and to CR 450E on its eastern boundary. The south border contains the Porter County Expo Center and Fairgrounds and its north boarder would stretch to Ind. 2 near Washington Twp. School.

The total size is about 3,600 acres or six square miles.

Thompson said the Plan Commission approved the declaratory resolution last month to check its compatibility with surrounding land zoning. RDCs can only collect tax revenues on commercial properties.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said it is also important for officials to note that it will only be collecting new tax funds and that it will not be taking away any existing funds.

She also inquired how long the TIF will last according to the resolution.

Financial Advisor for the RDC Dan Botich said it will sunset in 25 years after the first redevelopment bond is issued. That is a typical length for TIF areas, he said.

Botich and Thompson said that officials from East Porter County Schools have been working closely with the RDC in the development of the Airport TIF and have agreed on passing 40 percent of collected revenue on to the school and other overlapping taxing units, which is part of the resolution. The remaining 60 percent will be used by the RDC in the redevelopment area.

Botich said the RDC was hoping that the 60/40 deal could be used as a model for future TIF districts.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said it was stated by the Commissioners when they established the RDC in 2012 that no harm should fall on school districts. The Commissioners have appointed Ralph Ayres of the Duneland School Board to serve in an advisory role, he said.

RDC member and chair E. Ric Frataccia is also a school official, Evans added.

A public hearing was held on the resolution, which saw one supporter. Valparaiso resident Joe Kusiak asked the Commissioners to consider new state laws that support the employment of veterans given that the area looks to bring economic development. Evans told Kusiak it’s the goal of the Commissioners to keep veterans employed as best they can.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Evans, Blaney, and Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center.

Thompson said the RDC has scheduled a public hearing for the confirmatory resolution on April 17 at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Chambers. If approved, it would move on to the Plan Commission.

Evans told Thompson that once the Airport TIF is “out of the way, let’s go back to revising the hospital.”

Plans for a TIF district around the hospital were conceived before the Airport version was proposed, but have been shelved. Liberty Twp. resident Tim Cole appeared before the RDC last month requesting they reconsider the hospital TIF, saying he believes it could bring orderly growth to the U.S. 6 corridor.

Empower Porter County

Meanwhile, the Commissioners heard a presentation from Heather Harrigan, executive director of Empower Porter County which is dedicated to aiding those with substance abuse problems.

Harrigan said the organization found its feet last year with the support of the County Commissioners. It is a single organization that is a coalition of healthcare, law enforcement, government, education, faith-based and family groups and meets bimonthly.

Empower Porter County launched its Around the Table initiative in February. It aims to educate the public through the media on the importance of families eating meals together, since studies show members of those families are less likely to fall into substance abuse, Harrigan said.

More information about how families can talk with each other will be on the organization’s website, www.empowerpc.org.

Other efforts the organization is exploring include further prevention of the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, as well as how to medically treat children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Harrigan said.

The Commissioners complimented Empower Porter County on its program.

“The scourge we have with drug problems has to end because it is ending too many lives,” said Evans.

Insurance costs

In other matters, the Commissioners renewed the County’s employee health plan and workman’s compensation with its service agent Anton Insurance and its third party administrator Stewart C. Miller.

Principal Mike Anton said he expects insurance costs will rise to about $9.9 million over the next insurance year. He said the current insurance plan for the last 12 months will accumulate a total cost of $9.5 million this year which is what he had estimated.

Evans pointed out that the latest County budget approved by the County Council left the insurance fund $2 million in the hole.

Representatives from Stewart C. Miller said that while it costs over $20,000 to insure a family of four on national average, Porter County Government’s insurance is below that benchmark at about $17,000.

Park board appointment

In another matter, the Commissioners named Tom Schnabel as its representative on the Porter County Parks and Recreation Board.

Schnabel is Director of Music for Duneland Schools. He will succeed Kouts resident Ruth Jarnecke who resigned from the board last month.

The next park board meeting will be on Thursday, April 3.

 

 

Posted 3/19/2014