Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County RDC backs off plans for diverting taxes into TIFs

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Redevelopment Commission President Jeff Good said that there is no ambition currently on the County’s part to create tax increment finance (TIF) districts in the unincorporated areas.

The RDC met Wednesday to reorganize for 2017 with four new members -- Good, County Council President Mike Jessen and Valparaiso business owners Jason Gilliana and Stephen Sularaski. Returning is Don Ensign, a former member of the Hebron Town Council.

Good, who is president of the County Board of Commissioners, was elected president for the RDC. Jessen and Gilliana were elected as vice-president and secretary, respectively.

County Attorney Scott McClure will serve as the RDC’s attorney, replacing Greg Sobkowski.

The RDC was last revamped in 2012 by the Commissioners to study a potential TIF area around Porter Regional Hospital at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in Liberty Twp. to capture revenues from new commercial properties for economic development. When the plan met opposition over concern that the TIF would divert tax dollars away from public schools, the Commissioners directed the RDC to consider the Porter County Regional Airport. The TIF there was tabled too, as there were talks with the City of Valparaiso on creating an airport development zone.

More recently, members of the Woodville Foundation asked the RDC last year to look at the prospect of a Liberty Twp. TIF again after the RDC favored passing revenues on to schools. The Foundation presented a list of projects they would like to see a TIF accomplish, like expanding sewer and water utilities and putting in sidewalks.

The RDC ended 2016 saying it would wait to have direction from new leadership on the Commissioner Board.

Good made it clear that the RDC is starting with a clean slate, that “doesn’t have any preconceived projects or ideas right now.” That includes TIFs.

“I know this board has spent a lot of years talking about studying TIFs. TIFs are just another tool in the toolbox that I think a lot of municipalities use a lot,” Good said, adding that this was the consensus from the other two commissioners. “We don’t really see a need to TIF out there in the County right now, although I wouldn’t say that is something we would never do. If we ever do it will probably be brought to us from a municipality.”

What the RDC would like to do is to look for areas in the unincorporated area that would benefit from having better utilities and roads, along with opportunities for collaboration with local municipalities, he said.

“We just want to get this board into power,” said Good.

The County’s RDC is different from those in cities and towns because the county does not have its own utilities, McClure said. That puts more limitations on what they can do. But like municipal RDCs, the County RDC can statutorily own or sell property, McClure said. It does not need approval from the County Council to spend on items in its budget, although the Council would need to approve its budget each year.

The budget for 2017 has $450,000 in funds received from the Porter Regional Hospital’s tax abatement agreement to be used for economic development. The Commissioners have planned in their budget to supply $100,000 this year to the RDC. The RDC approved paying two invoices, one to Cender and Company for $1,556 for a year-end financial report and $570 to Sobkowski for attorney services.

Good said he and McClure will plan workshops for the new RDC members “to learn the nuts and bolts.” There is no regular meeting schedule yet but there may be when projects get underway, he said.

 

Posted 3/17/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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