Chesterton Tribune



County Council adopts new wavier policy for delinquent taxes

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Porter County Council members voted 6-0 in favor of a revised policy regarding waivers on delinquent property tax penalties.

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the policy is the result of a new state law that went into effect this July that gives county fiscal bodies the ability to authorize the county auditor and treasurer to waive penalty fees.

According to the policy, the fee can be dropped for specific reasons -- if the taxpayer is incapacitated due to death or death of an immediate family member within a three-month period of the tax bill due date, if the taxpayer is hospitalized, if the taxpayer is absent due to actively serving in the military when the taxes are due, or if there is an error on part of the county in posting the payment.

Non-profit and government entities can also receive a waiver on properties acquired if it is determined they can demonstrate that they performed due diligence in payment of outstanding taxes or if applying for tax exempt status.

All requests for fee waivers need to be put in writing to the County Auditor’s Office and the taxpayer is encouraged to submit any documentation that may support their request.

Urbanik said that requests by taxpayers to have their fees withdrawn because they claim they did not see the tax bill, that it got “lost in the mail” or cannot make payments due to economic hardship are not sufficient reasons for their request to be granted.

“Taxpayers still have the responsibility to make their tax payments on time because we need to be fair with those who do pay on time,” Urbanik said.

Election Board

Taking a respite from elections this year, the Election Board is using this time to research new equipment purchases to replace the aging election machines.

“After the election cycle completed last year, we are doing a review of the election process,” Board President and Republican representative David Bengs said. Helping the board are the two directors in the Voters Registration Office, Republican Director Sundae Schoon and Democratic Director Kathy Kozuszek.

The next step would be to issue a request for proposals to help decide which equipment to purchase, Bengs said. The Council agreed the board should proceed.

Schoon said they are seeking to streamline the voting process in the future with the equipment available from vendors who are certified by the state.

Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, said she would like to make sure there is a paper trail in case there needs to be a recount or equipment failure. Schoon said it will be in the RFP requiring the machines to have a paper trail.

Kozuszek said she is asking that there be a buyback clause in the final contract where the vendor would pay fair market value for any equipment in case of a buyback.

The board will seek bids for 30 days and hopes to have them by October.

Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, said he appreciates the board including the Council and the Commissioners in the discussion. Council members censured the board when it decided to purchase a large number of electronic poll books without consulting either them or the Commissioners.

Time and attendance system

In other matters, the Council voted 6-0 in favor of the IT Department and the Auditor’s Office installing new time and attendance software as part of the County’s new payroll system, even though the cost of maintenance raised a few eyebrows.

The installation of the software from Right Stuff Software is a one-time cost of $40,000 but the maintenance per month is $3,000, or $36,000 annually.

“That seems like an exorbitant amount of money,” Council member Jeff Larson, R-at large, told Urbanik. He asked if this was the typical cost for a system like this and if there were costs eliminated elsewhere, such as bookkeeping.

Urbanik said the proposals that came in were all different and the Right Stuff Software was determined to be the most economical for the County’s needs. The Commissioners have said that there is no other County government in the state as big as Porter operating without a time clock system.

Employees will clock in through a computer, except for the Highway Department because those employees do not use computers in their everyday tasks, Urbanik said. The system will keep track automatically of leave time for vacation, sick, personal and comp times.

Urbanik offered to pay $10,000 out of her budget to pay for the installation, reducing the request in the County IT’s general fund budget to $30,000. It will be an additional $9,000 to pay for the maintenance until the end of the year.

Other approvals:

-- The first payout of employee longevity was approved for $172,000 from the County’s Riverboat Fund, which is money received by the state as a tax on casinos. Urbanik said there was a delay in getting the allocation due to an error on the state’s part.

-- The County will pay Capital Cities LLC $16,250 for its services as the investment advisor for the hospital sale proceeds.

-- The Animal Shelter will launch a new website with $8,000 it has received in donations.

-- Both the Parks Department and the Memorial Opera House received approval to use grant moneys. With help from the Opera House Foundation Board, the Opera House will put together a manual on rehabilitating the facility with $70,000 from a state grant. The Parks will use $15,000 in grant monies for improvements at Sunset Hill Farm. The Council also approved a transfer of roughly $10,000 in the Parks’ general fund budget for more improvements using excess funds from employee liability insurance.


Posted 8/25/2017








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