Although his seat is not up for election in November, County Council
president Dan Whitten, D- at large, confronted campaign rumors that the
county has been mismanaging its money.
During a county budget hearing Wednesday, Whitten said he was “absolutely
infuriated” at accusations in newspapers and online blog discussions
criticizing the county for spending money beyond acceptable limits.
Whitten refuted the criticisms in a written statement, saying the county is
in far better shape than what is being said.
“As president of the fiscal body, namely the county council, I need to set
the facts straight,” he said. “I’m not speaking up for political reasons.”
Whitten compared Porter County’s unemployment rate of 8.6 with its
surrounding counties, showing a higher 10.7 percent in Lake County and
LaPorte County with 11.3 percent. The Indiana Workforce Development ranks
Porter 77th out of the 92 Indiana counties in terms of unemployment figures.
The Porter County General Fund cost per-capita at $209 is lower than any
surrounding county and is in the bottom 15 counties in the state, Whitten
said. Of the counties with over 100,000 in population, Porter County is
fourth from the lowest in cost per capita spending.
Lake County’s General Fund cost per-capita is $241. Pulaski County has a
$552 per-capita cost in its funds.
He said while it is not uncommon for property tax rates to climb, Porter
County’s tax rate has not increased over the last five years, but instead
Another part of Whitten’s argument is that the county has been able to
accrue the interest money from the hospital sale without having to use it
for any county budget spending.
Lastly, Whitten predicted the county will be able to control its spending
well within the tax caps proposed whose constitutionality will be set in a
referendum during this November’s election.
“We’re in good shape and I think this county council should be commended
because it is not easy.”
Commissioner Budgets Approved
The council approved a few of its heftier budgets during the session.
Porter County Highway Superintendent Al Hoagland submitted slightly higher
budgets than what was approved for 2010.
Highway Maintenance rose from $1,818,911 to $1,902,061. Hoagland said the
department will be looking into purchasing new trucks and chippers to
replace the older ones. The Highway General budget was approved at
The council also approved the Highway Major Moves budget at $1,150,000. The
Major Moves money comes from the state’s sale of the Toll Road in 2006. The
money is in its own separate fund is invested for use by the highway
The Porter County Commissioners’ general budget was approved by the council
7-0 at a figure of $11,584,588. The budget includes maintenance for the
county buildings utilities, telephone and communication systems, and health
insurance for county employees. Health insurance cost was one of the reasons
the budget rose from $11,150,134 that was approved for 2010.
The council also approved $685,963 for the Porter County Plan Commission.
The money does not come from the General Fund but from building permit fees.
Plan Director Robert Thompson said the department is in good shape for next
year despite a lag in the number of housing and building projects in the
The county’s Information Technologies department will see one less person
next year, but will create a new position.
The department cut a yearly $30,000 document imaging position along with a
system support position costing $42,000 per year. A $52,000 server
administrator position is set to be created for next year.
IT Director Sharon Lippens said the employee who is leaving has found work
in the private sector.
Expected to Go Up
Council member Bob Poparad, D-1st, pointed out the fee for the Northwest
Indiana Regional Planning Commission will go up next year as the U.S. Census
Bureau will make its next official tabulation of the county from this year’s
NIRPC is currently paid 70 cents per person. The figure is expected to rise
to about 77 cents per-capita after this year, Poparad said.
The county’s estimated population is about 163,000 according to figures from
the census bureau. The last census taken in 2000 indicated Porter County had
a population of 146,798, which has been the basis for the NIRPC fees.
The council approved the fund worth $102,759 which is paid out of County
Economic Development Income Tax money.
Meeting Date Reset
The council has
expanded its schedule for its budget work. Originally slated for final
reading, the Oct. 18 hearing is to determine tabled budgets such as the
election board and the county sheriff’s budget. A final reading has been
rescheduled for Thursday, Oct. 21.
executive chief deputy Alizabeth Bailey told the Chesterton Tribune
this morning that the county currently has $1,215,897 left in General Fund
money to increase budgets.