Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners reset maximum rate for CCD fund

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Porter County Government looks to pay for more items out of its Cumulative Capital Development fund by adjusting the tax rate up to .0233 cents per $100 of assessed valuation as approved 3-0 by the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The vote took place after a public hearing where a few citizens showed up asking questions on the topic of 2015 County Budgets.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said the hearing was not for the budgets as those will be addressed during a public hearing in the fall by the County Council.

As some would view this as a direct tax increase, Evans felt it necessary to explain what effect the measure would have on property taxpayers and why he and fellow Commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, chose to seek the new rate establishment.

In short, Evans said the Commissioners are assisting the County Council to combat the effect of state imposed property tax caps on the General Fund by “taking off some of the pressure.” A few items in the General Fund can be transferred to the CCD rate.

“All we are doing is moving approximately $825,000 in annual power, water and sewage expense from the General Fund to the more appropriate CCD fund. This will free up that $825,000 in the General Fund to help the County Council to manage the budget shortfall,” he said.

The action will raise the CCD rate by four-tenths of a cent from .0189, Evans said. A homestead valued at $150,000 with standard deductions will see its taxes rise at a rate of just 25 cents a month, or $3 per year.

CCD money is by spent the Commissioners on building maintenance, roads and right-of-ways, information technology, and equipment, as well as police vehicles.

According to Evans, the impact on the County’s over tax rate should be unnoticeable as the building corporation bond for the Juvenile Center will be paid off and offset the increase to the CCD fund. Taxpayers may very well see a decrease in their bills next year because the debt payment rate will be eliminated and higher property values also lower the rate, he said.

"The way this is timed, there are essentially no negative impacts on property taxpayers,” Evans said.

Reestablishing the rate was suggested as a way to counteract effects of the tax caps on the County budgets in a report by Umbaugh and Associates, financial consultants.

Bob Clifford, principal from Umbaugh, who was asked by the Commissioners to attend the hearing, said that if the rate is not established, the budgeting process set by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance drives it down. This will bring the levy back up to where it was four years ago in Porter County, Clifford said.

“You really need to do what you can with each of your balances moving forward,” Clifford said.

In order for the rate to take effect on taxes next year, counties need to adopt resolutions by Aug. 1 to notify the DLGF.

The DLGF says that remonstrations by taxpayers can be made to the County Auditor 30 days after notice of adoption.

A leaky situation

Meanwhile, due to “unforeseen events” -- or an especially wet June -- the Commissioners declared at state of emergency for the County’s Juvenile Service Center to expedite repair of the entire roof.

Director Alison Cox said for the last two weeks the center has had the recurring problem of water leaking in and disturbing the fire alarm sensors. The alarm has gone off, forcing evacuations outside, once during a thunderstorm, Cox said.

“It’s frankly putting kids and staff in jeopardy,” said Cox.

What is also critical, Cox said, is that if the fire alarm systems gets wrecked by the leakage, the Center would be at risk of failing a safety inspection which could lead to a forced shutdown of the facility.

DLZ Indiana architectural engineer Stephen Kromkowski said work is already being done on the front of the building in a project approved by the Commissioners, under a contract with E.C. Babilla Roofing of Gary. Kromkowski said $130,000 could be added to that contract to finish the roof, replacing the “brittle” concrete tiles with a synthetic slate. There would be a built-in savings of about $6,800 in shipping the material.

The Commissioners gave their approval on the condition that they will first need to check with attorney Betty Knight about whether a change order with the current contract is permissible, or if they would need to seek qualifications for the work.

The $130,000 would be covered by $85,000 of funds contributed by the Juvenile Services Center Building Corporation, while the remaining $55,000 will be covered using CCD funds.

On a related note, Cox said the center is ready to receive $92,000 from an alternative initiative program continuation grant. The Commissioners gave approval needed for the grant, which will help with education for the juveniles housed and training for staff.




Posted 7/16/2014