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Porter County Airport TIF district advances

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County could have its first tax increment finance (TIF) district in place in four or five months from now as the Redevelopment Commission voted 3-0 on Thursday in favor of the declaratory resolution for the Porter County Airport Economic Development Area.

Roughly 3,600 acres will make up the area located in Washington Twp. southeast of the Valparaiso City corporate boundary with its southern border running along Division Rd. encompassing the County Fairgrounds and then east to primarily CR 450E and north to Washington Twp. School on Ind. 2.

Along with the Economic Development Plan developed with the assistance of financial advisor Dan Botich of Cender and Company, the declaratory resolution will advance to the Porter County Plan Commission at their Feb. 12 meeting.

Legal advisor Gregg Sobkowski said if the county planners approve the resolution, the County Commissioners will decide if the resolution is to their liking. Then the RDC will hold a public hearing on a confirmatory resolution and adopt it with any changes they need to make.

The County Commissioners have the last step of approving the confirmatory resolution designating the TIF area, Sobkowski said.

The heart of the Commission’s discussion before voting revolved around the impact the TIF would have on East Porter County Schools. EPCSC Superintendent Rod Gardin and school board member Bob Martin have both been active in the conversation advising how their school district already has a TIF within it at the Porter Vale Shopping center on Ind. 2 where they are in agreement with the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission to receive 40 percent of the assessed valuation captured by the TIF.

The County RDC’s resolution will include the same arrangement. Board member and County Council member Jim Polarek, R-4th, proposed a 50/50 agreement but Gardin said the RDC should make sure they are able to capture enough to get their projects accomplished and would agree to the 60/40 deal.

“We consider that fair. Everybody will benefit from that,” Gardin said.

Any new property tax levied on real property after the TIF is established is captured by the RDC.

In paragraph 9 of the resolution, the RDC agrees to having a grant program available to schools where it can capture another 15 percent of the AV. RDC’s can give grants to institutions that provide educational programs designed to train individuals to become part of a competitive workforce in the global economy.

RDC President Ric Frataccia said that the City of Valparaiso wrote to him indicating an interest in working with the board on the venture. Valparaiso has recently annexed parcels in the area of land owned by Von Tobel Corp. and Pratt Industries along U.S. 30.

Frataccia said he would welcome the offer and also stressed that all matters should be transparent.

“The goal is economic development so we can have jobs for our folks. How we do that needs to be cooperative,” he said.

Martin told the board he appreciated their communication to EPCSC and what they are doing could serve as a model for other RDCs in the state. “You guys are a very adept ear,” he said.

School advisor Ralph Ayres, who is a non-voting member of the board, said he thinks this would “set a precedent” as there are very few TIF districts that have these types of arrangements in the state. The Vale Shopping Center is thought to be the only TIF in the county which allocates AV to the school district or other taxing units.

Voting in favor of the resolution was Polarek, Frataccia and member Dave Burrus. Absent from the meeting was RDC member and County Council member Sylvia Graham, D-At Large.

According to the resolution, development projects would center on public utility connections with water and sanitary sewer. Corridor roadway improvement projects will be planned for U.S. 30, Ind. 2 and 49, and County Roads 100N, 200N, and 450E. Infrastructure and safety improvements for the airport are also included in the project description.

The economic development plan’s objectives are to promote opportunities that will bring gainful employment by attracting new businesses, benefiting public safety and increasing property values in the county. Roughly $70 million of potential improvements are planned for the next ten years with $30 million for upgrades specifically for the airport.

The TIF for Airport Economic Development Area is to last 25 years, according to the resolution.

After the vote, Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko and County Budget Specialist Vicki Urbanik, in the audience, talked about the potential impact that Governor Mike Pence’s break on business personal property tax could have on the County. “This could have a big importance,” Urbanik said.

Bucko said that a year ago, he did some math after a legislator had made a similar proposal and said it would create a $25 million total hit against all the county governmental units combined. Urbanik said according to her figures for 2013, the impact would be closer to $27 million or $28 million.

Ayres said another news story coming out this week was the announcement that Boeing Corp. is eying Indiana and possibly the northwest region to build an airline factory that will bring with it 9,000 or so “high-paying” jobs. If Boeing would decide to build in Gary since it has the airport, it could revitalize Gary and have a ripple effect on the surrounding communities.

“Wouldn’t that be something for Northwest Indiana?” Ayres said.

 

Posted 12/20/2013