Chesterton Tribune



County Council to set hearing on Foundation earnings fund

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The Porter County Council will advertise a public hearing on a fund holding the earnings made from the Porter County Government Nonprofit Charitable Foundation’s investment of proceeds from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital.

At the start of Thursday’s budget hearing, Council Vice-President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said there isn’t a fund yet for the investment earnings but one is needed so the Council can shore up gaps in the general fund, now that the previous hospital interest funds will be used up.

Whitten said he has been in conversations with County Auditor Vicki Urbanik and County Attorney Scott McClure who determined there is still time for the new fund to be created and adopted along with the rest of the budgets that Council will need to submit to the state by Nov. 1.

First reading and public hearing for the other budgets happened on Monday. The hospital investment earnings fund can get its own hearing within ten days once it is advertised, said Urbanik, and Monday, Oct. 2, is the hearing’s tentative date.

Urbanik said the County will advertise the budget for the fund on the state’s Gateway portal at The Foundation earned $6.3 million in its first year but the budget will be advertised higher like the others so the County can get the most use of the fund once the state approves it, she said.

Whitten said the Commissioners will vote on second reading and adoption of an ordinance to establish the fund at their next meeting, having approved it on first reading 3-0 in May.

Along with making sure there are enough funds for the community organizations paid out of hospital interest -- Family and Youth Services Bureau, Opportunity Enterprises and the Council on Aging and Community Services -- the Foundation earnings budget will be used in 2018 to support the $2.1 million to pay back the bond on the Commissioners’ capital improvement projects. The Commissioners are suggesting in their local income tax plan budgets to use money from the 911 and Jail medical budget for the bond payments and eventually the Foundation earnings will reimburse those items.

Whitten said the Foundation fund will also need to pay the Foundation’s investment advisor and auditor invoices, along with some money for contractual services.

Earlier this year, the Council heard requests to use the Foundation earnings as grants to nonprofit groups. The Council has set up committees to work on formalizing guidelines for a grant process.

Raise requests

Throughout the hearings on Tuesday and Thursday this week, the Council has pushed all request for salary increases and new personnel to the end of second readings so it can see if there is any money remaining.

Whitten, who has been presiding over the meetings this week in absence of Council President Mike Jessen, R-4th, said there may be a separate meeting afterwards dealing exclusively with those requests.

Sheriff Dave Reynolds is proposing his jail staff be granted raises in 2018, like the ones given to his merit officers this year, as well as replacing three positions that have been lost.

“We’re in desperate need of jailers,” Reynolds told the Council.

Reynolds had put together a PowerPoint presentation to pitch his request. Whitten said the Council will look at it after second readings are done.

Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel is also making changes in his budget related to salaries by proposing to move a few positions into his general fund budget.

Tourism to support venues

Meanwhile, the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission presented its proposed 2018 budget keeping the same funding for the four County venues at the levels the Council increased it to starting in 2016.

The Memorial Opera House, Expo Center and the Porter County Museum will get $38,120 in innkeepers’ tax each while the Parks Department will get $35,640, Previously, the venues would split $89,100, which was the frozen amount for several years prior to 2016.

The Council voted in favor of the presented budget which included an increase in capital outlays from $30,000 to $530,000. PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer and Board President Mitch Peters said that is for the Tourism Bureau to seek grants and use the money to start the Visitor Center redesign project in collaboration with the National Lakeshore.



Posted 9/22/2017




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