Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Porter County Council puts $8 million in CEDIT back into commissioners' budget

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Board of Commissioners will sleep a little easier now.

The County Council voted to reinstate more than $8 million of County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) that had been allocated by the Commissioners for numerous projects this year and some leftover from last year.

In October, a bipartisan majority of Council members consisting of Jim Biggs, R-1st, Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, Jim Polarek, R-4th, and Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, passed the 2013 budgets in October without carrying over any CEDIT funds. They said that county government will become increasingly dependent on CEDIT revenue for operational expenses and that they wanted to work through each project to better understand how the Commissioners are spending the money.

The move prevented the Commissioners paying some bills at the start of this year and they have continually requested the Council reappropriate the money.

According to Indiana law, the Commissioners have the power to develop CEDIT projects, determining how to use the money, while the County Council is the body which decides if the money should be appropriated.

The two came together for a near three-hour meeting Tuesday where the Council examined over 40 individual line items with the Commissioners. Going over each item, the Council cut funds down to size wherever they saw fit.

For example, one such CEDIT project called for $30,910 to consultants for advertising and promotion of the Animal Shelter. Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, asked if all the money was being used for the Shelter’s Facebook page which he said should be less than $30,000 because Facebook is a social media site that is free to use.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said the Commissioners pay someone $10 a day to promote adoptions on the site, which comes to a little more than $3,500. Fellow Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said 70 percent of the Shelter’s adoptions are attributed to the Facebook page which has over 10,000 “likes.”

“I think we are on the right path,” Evans said.

The Council decided to reduce the amount from $30,000 to $15,000, which will be also be used for traditional forms of advertising for the shelter.

The Council shot down another CEDIT project of $25,000 to advertise an array of county events such as the Porter County Fair. The Commissioners are welcome to ask again for the money if they need, the Council members said.

The Council split 4-2 on $150,000 of yearly allocations to the Valparaiso Economic Development Corporation which is eventually given to the Porter County Economic Development Alliance to divvy up funds among all county municipalities. Questions about how the money is used led to “no” votes from Council members Polarek and Dan Whitten, D-At Large.

One item that yielded multiple questions was a $450,000 item labeled generically as “for consultants to help with various projects. ”Those, as Evans explained, covered work that was to be done for building repairs, radio equipment for fire departments and an ambulance garage in Hebron.

“There are always projects people are bringing to us,” he said.

Evans said the fund was once separated into the three Commissioner districts but now has been combined. He said he would like to have extra money in case of an emergency and it is always difficult to predict when those problems will arise.

The council voted 6-0 to appropriate $355,000 of the fund to help purchase the firehouse radios and build the ambulance garage.

Council members held more discussion on what priorities they need to set when they arrived to a $600,000 item on the agenda for building maintenance.

Evans said he would like to carve out a small space in the county garage to build a structure to store voting machines. The structure would take out about 15 parking spaces, he said, but it will save significant dollar amounts on maintenance checks and rent space for the County and would make loading the machines into trucks easier.

The rest of the money could be put toward roof repairs or ADA improvements, Evans said.

Whitten said the County needs to decide what needs are most urgent on its list of things the County needs to do versus what it would like to do.

“We have to be cognizant that we are solvent but not forever,” said Whitten. “We need to get ahead of things. We can’t get behind them.”

Also, the Council voted 6-0 to approve $250,000 which will be used for the county drug program and the county highway garage.

Other approvals included roughly $915,000 to pay for work done on the comprehensive drainage studies for the South Haven, Lake Michigan Watershed and the Kankakee Valley Watershed projects. The Council expressed a desire to continue drainage improvement projects to prevent future problems and expenses.

Also, the council approved CEDIT funding of $300,000 that is given annually to the County Parks Department for land purchase.

When done, Evans said that the Commissioners still have over $4 million in unallocated CEDIT which supports their claim that they have been frugal with the income tax.

“We’re not spending money like drunken sailors,” Evans said.

He said the $4 million can be used for other County matters in need of funding as long as they are agreed upon by the Council and the Commissioners.

Rivas asked that the Commissioners provide the Council with “scorecards” of the CEDIT projects on a regular basis.

All members of the Council were present on Tuesday with the exception of Biggs, who was out of town on business.

WPL board appointment

In other matters Tuesday, the Council named Michael Livovich as its appointment to the Westchester Township Library Board.

The Council also voted 6-0 to put to a resolution at its next regular meeting to create an Economic Revitalization Area at the Aldi Inc. warehouse, located at 197 East on Division Road.

Aldi’s legal representative Todd Leeth said the company wishes to expand its facilities and will ask the Council to consider granting tax abatements.

 

 

Posted 3.29.1213