Voting 4-0 Tuesday, the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission authorized its
attorney to begin the legal steps necessary to designate much if not all of
the ArcelorMittal steelmaking facility as an economic development zone where
future property taxes on new Mittal construction and improvements would be
captured by the RDC for the towns use.
Better known as tax-increment financing or TIF, attorney Charles Parkinson
said many steps will be involved over several months and a public hearing
will be held prior to the new TIF being approved. The town has one
designated TIF district currently.
John Marshall, a non-voting RDC member and a member of the Duneland School
Board, said he was withholding his support Tuesday because Duneland
officials have had only very preliminary discussions regarding a Mittal TIF
and the School Board probably wont address the matter for 30 to 60 days.
Future property taxes collected by Duneland Schools, Westchester Public
Library, Westchester Township and Porter County all could be impacted if the
Mittal plant is placed in a TIF district.
Parkinson said Burns Harbor needs to establish an exact legal description of
the new TIF area and to adopt a capital improvement plan with projects that
justify the need to capture future taxes there. The towns sewage treatment
plant is located on the Mittal property north of U.S. 12.
The Town Council is hosting a public meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Burns
Harbor town hall seeking input on needed capital improvements for the whole
town. Hesham Khalil of town engineer Global Engineering and Land Surveying
said so far $12 million in requests have been proposed and the council will
need to review and prioritize the list in the coming weeks.
The RDC has been working with Stu Summers, a TIF consultant, on how to
generate usable revenue for the town. Last night he suggested refinancing
the 2005 sewer bonds over 15 years in a general-obligation sale to free up
cash; the RDC asked the Town Council --- whose members are the same on both
boards --- to consider the proposal. The council next meets Aug. 11.
The 2005 bonds financed installation of sanitary sewers and lift stations
throughout town and the bond agreement pledges that all TIF revenue, about
$300,000 a year, will go toward their debt service. Summers said its been
determined that TIF revenue tied to a new bond issue would not automatically
carry the same restriction.
Summers said if the town bonded for $4.9 million and paid off the
outstanding $3.5 million sewer-bond balance, there would be $1.4 million
left over for other uses.
Also, instead of each year needing both the $300,000 annual TIF revenue and
about $475,000 from the general fund in additional property taxes to pay for
the 2005 bonds now, explained Summers, under one option only $350,000 would
be needed in property taxes annually to retire the refinanced bonds leaving
$125,000 in the general fund and $300,000 in TIF revenue for other projects.
RDC member Mike Perrine said if it wouldn't increase the town tax rate,
refinancing would solve a lot of problems and sounds like a win/win
Summers said its easier to sell general-obligation bonds pledging
unrestricted property taxes than it is to sell bonds backed by TIF revenues
alone. He also cautioned that the state Department of Local Government
Finance might not let the town keep in its general fund the $125,000 it
annually would save on refinanced bonds.
Parkinson said to get maximum benefit from the new TIF it should be in place
by March 1, 2011. Summers said property along Indiana 149 south of Mittal is
not in an existing TIF area and could be included in the new Mittal TIF if
desired; that option also gives more flexibility to the types of capital
improvement projects proposed for the TIF zone. The Town of Porter uses a
portion of its TIF money to pay for future hike/bike trails.
In other business, the RDC voted to approve up to an additional $500 payment
for Weaver-Boos as part of a $2,500 Phase 1 environmental study of the site
of the abandoned former Standard Plaza truck stop demolished by the town
several months ago. The contract increase is to do a chain-of-title search
listing property owners and uses for the last 80 years.
Vote was 3-0 with RDC member Louis Bain absent and member Cliff Fleming, an
attorney and developer, recusing himself from voting because he is involved
in a potential contract in a different community with Weaver-Boos.
Resident and business owner Jeff Freeze gave a status report on a 2020
committee formed in partnership with the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of
Commerce to foster communication between and support for Burns Harbor and
its business community. Freeze said next month the group hopes to develop a
sharper focus; it was formed to help implement recommendations in the new
Burns Harbor comprehensive plan adopted last year.
Freeze is president of the town Advisory Plan Commission and invited 2020
shareholders to join the 2020 effort. Fleming said having the chamber
involved provides a structure to promote progress.