Porter County is one step away from adopting an ordinance establishing its
own redevelopment commission with the ability to propose tax increment
financing (TIF) districts similar to those set up by cities and towns.
All three commissioners gave the nod to a first reading of the ordinance on
Tuesday and set the date for the second reading on June 19.
The redevelopment commission will be comprised of five members with voting
power, County Plan Commission Executive Director Bob Thompson said. Three
will be chosen by the commissioners with the option of having one of their
appointments be the commissioner president or a designee. The other two
seats will be filled by the County Council.
John Shepherd, who was the volunteer director of the former advisory
redevelopment commission for the county, said the commissioners would also
need to select one ex-officio member who would need to be a school board
member from somewhere in the county. He said this order was mandated by
state law years ago as TIF districts drew criticism for diverting money away
from schools which at that time relied on property taxes for their general
fund budgets. Education in its own right, Shepherd said, is an important
part of economic redevelopment.
The former advisory redevelopment commission, which had nine members, could
only make suggestions to the commissioners on matters like federal grants,
such as the one sought for the Lake Eliza area and another for the historic
Collier Lodge on the Kankakee River, Shepherd said.
The new redevelopment commission can obtain grants on its own terms. Tax
revenue collected will be used strictly for economic development and create
opportunities and environments for jobs through new infrastructure such as
water, sewers and roads. “The idea is job creation,” said Shepherd.
The method is different from redevelopment commissions which set up TIF
districts to revitalize blighted communities. Some of these types of TIF
districts exist in Lake County but none exist in Porter County. Economic TIF
districts also don’t have the power of eminent domain, Shepherd said.
If the redevelopment commission wished to implement a TIF district, it would
first need its members to set the district’s geographical boundaries. From
there, the layout would be proposed to the plan commission who could either
pass it along to the county commissioners or kick it back to the
redevelopment commission to make adjustments. The commissioners would be the
final checkpoint before a TIF district can be formed and could also make
adjustments if they wished.
Shepherd said he has no knowledge if the redevelopment commission plans to
draw TIF districts but there has been speculation by some officials the U.S.
6 corridor, specifically around the new Porter hospital, will be one. Other
districts might include the developments around the county airport.
When a TIF is established, a baseline property value is set. Any property
taxes collected at or before the baseline go to the taxing units while any
tax revenue from commercial and industrial property above the baseline would
go to the redevelopment commission.
Redevelopment commissions can also receive money by grants or by offering
bonds, Shepherd said.
According to Shepherd, the Redevelopment Commission would have no taxing
powers, saying that is reserved for a governmental unit’s fiscal body.
Addressing the concern that TIF districts would take property taxes away
from some school budgets, County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North,
said that he will see to it that no tax dollars are taken away from any
“That is something we want to be sure of,” Evans said.
Each school corporation in Porter County has at least some portion of
unincorporated county land. The state now is responsible for funding
schools’ general funds through a state sales tax, but all other funds such
as capital improvement and transportation funds are paid from property
taxes, Shepherd said. Also, Duneland residents voted May 8 to restore a
general fund property tax rate for schools in their district.
The Valparaiso TIF district which enters Washington Township is the only one
of the 14 TIF districts throughout the county that currently has a
pass-through for schools, said County Auditor Robert Wichlinski.
Only one resident spoke during the public hearing on the ordinance. Plan
Commission member Herb Read did not speak for or against the measure but
asked to get clarification on what role the plan commission would play in
forming TIF districts.