Now that the Porter County Board of Commissioners has hired a financial
advisor to help determine the best way to move forward with creating tax
increment financing districts, the County Redevelopment Commission Thursday
asked Cender and Company to deliver an impact study.
Dan Botich, director at Cender and Company, said he expects to have the
analysis ready to present at the RDC’s April 18 meeting. The study will look
at the commission’s preliminary TIF boundaries around the U.S. 6 corridor in
Liberty Twp. from Ind. 149 to a few yards past North Calumet Avenue (Old
The area is wider between Meridian Road and Calumet Ave., from CR 900 North
to the north and sections of CR 700 N to the south.
The area includes the new Porter Regional Hospital and its 104-acre property
which has sparked opposition from a few County Council members who believe
“TIF-ing” the $210 million facility would deplete tax benefits promised to
All five commission members agreed to move forward with the preliminary
draft but a few of them and non-voting advisor Ralph Ayres said they would
like the Duneland School Corporation to be carved out.
RDC members Jim Polarek, President Ric Frataccia, and newly sworn-in member
Sylvia Graham, who replaced Jeremy Rivas as a County Council appointment,
said they wish not to see any of the schools or local taxing units in that
area shorted on their share of revenue.
Frataccia, who is Superintendent of Portage Schools, told the Tribune
the intention of the new RDC when it was created last summer was to leave
the Duneland Schools out of the TIF and if somehow the schools are ever
negatively impacted by the TIF, he would resign.
Frataccia said there have been problems in his own school district with the
Portage High School located in a TIF that does not have carve-outs or pass-throughs.
He said he has asked Portage City officials to change it so the school will
be carved out.
Frataccia said the creation of the U.S. 6 TIF allocation area will not be
“altogether different” from how cities and towns create their TIFs but
parcels are likely to be cut out before the commission approves a final
version. Before a TIF can be established it also needs to have approval from
the County Plan Commission and the County Commissioners which would both
have public hearings.
Botich said the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission gives money back to the
East Porter County School Corporation by way of grants from its TIF that
spills over into Washington Twp.
It had been suggested at the previous RDC meeting by Doug Olson of SEH that
Duneland Schools could be granted money, possibly to its general fund which
pays for teachers and programs.
Ayres invited Duneland School board members and officials to Thursday’s
In attendance was Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer.
Ayres said a TIF in the U.S. 6 corridor can be useful in improving safety
and the flow of additional traffic with the opening of the new hospital.
Redevelopment commissions collect revenue from new commercial properties,
not residential, for the purpose of improving infrastructure. One of the
projects the County RDC wants to do, Ayres said, is to put in a stoplight at
the intersection of Meridian Road and CR 700 North which has been cited by
Duneland School Board member Ronald Stone as one of the County’s worst
hotspots for accidents.
Graham said officials need to be cautious with TIFs because assessed values
in the county are being depressed by the state’s tax caps and the County
Council would like to see taxing units get the funding they need. She said
she doesn’t want to see TIFs force the county into creating any new income
She said Porter Regional Hospital should be cut out because it currently has
a ten-year tax abatement granted by the County Council.
As the abatement continues to drop off, the tax revenue could go to the RDC,
Polarek, who also wants to exclude the hospital, gave concern that he does
not want township governments and volunteer fire districts to be shorted on
Frataccia told those sitting in the audience that TIFs in unincorporated
Porter County cannot be created by any governing body other than the RDC.
“We are going to see that we put (the TIF) together according to statute,”
He added that the role of the RDC is “to keep an eye on economic
development” and he expects many questions will be addressed at the April 18
meeting when the study is completed.
“We expect to see a full house,” Frataccia said.
Ayres said he has received several phone calls already from concerned
“People are beginning to talk about it,” he said. He recommended that anyone
with concerns contact someone on the redevelopment commission.
The other members are John Shepherd and Dave Burrus.
Botich said the study will report on a number of items including what kinds
of revenue can be collected with the implementation of an allocation area,
what sorts of economic development can take place, identifying what kinds of
tax rates there could be, identifying the formulas related to assessed
values, and how tax abatements would operate.
The County Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday hired Cender and Company
of Merrillville on a contract not to exceed $10,000 per year for financial
advisement and also approved a not to exceed $16,000 per year contract with
attorney Gregory A. Sobkowski of Hodges and Davis law firm.
Also in attendance at the meeting were County Commissioners John Evans,
R-North, and Laura Blaney, D-South, as were County Auditor Robert Wichlinski
and County Treasurer Mike Bucko.