Chesterton Tribune


Burns Harbor maps DLGF hearing strategy, seeks input on redistricting and hydrant fee

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Burns Harbor officials are preparing their case for Friday’s 10:30 a.m. Department of Local Government Finance public hearing at the town hall.

Town Council president Jim McGee said he’s asked the town’s financial consultant to be present. At issue is whether the DLGF will allow the town in 2013 to raise its cumulative capital development fund tax rate so annual collections go from $29,805 to approximately $203,000.

A remonstrance petition was filed by a sufficient number of residents resulting in the DLGF field hearing. The remonstrators say they can’t afford a tax increase, nor do they feel one is necessary.

McGee, who’s served several terms on the council, said he didn’t know the CCDF rate could have been increased or he would have done it a long time ago.

Meeting Wednesday, councilman Mike Perrine suggested documents be prepared showing what Burns Harbor’s tax rate was five years prior to the 2001 Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy that forced the then-council to slash all but necessary town services to lower the operating budget to compensate for the 85 percent drop in property tax revenue.

Perrine said the current town tax rate is one-third of what it was prior to 2001. “That’s why nothing ever gets done anymore and the roads are falling apart. We’re not asking for (a $0.04 rate) to do foolish things and squander it.”

This year’s CCDF rate is just over one-half cent.

Councilman Jeff Freeze said the town attorney recommended giving the DLGF a list of specific projects the town would undertake with the new money. A complaint raised by remonstrators is that no firm way the money would be spent was proposed.

Council member Greg Miller said the town’s website contains a $60 million capital-projects wish list for discussion purposes.

The list is a draft prepared for the former Town Council but never formally was adopted.

Resident Phyllis Constantine attempted to inquire about proposed CCDF uses, but McGee told her to save it for the Friday DLGF hearing.

In other budget-related matters, the council conducted a public hearing on its proposed 2013 spending plan that seeks to raise $1,953,440 in property taxes on a total $2,982,937 budget estimate; it contains raises for town employees.

Constantine was the only person to comment, asking if the non-reverting $89,738 Fire/Ambulance fund will be sufficient to sustain the town’s new advanced-life-support ambulance slated to begin runs in November. She was told the fund takes in fees for service, and Perrine said it’s hoped the ambulance will be almost self-supporting.

The Burns Harbor budget goes before the Porter County Council next week for non-binding review; formal adoption will take place at the rescheduled Oct. 17 meeting.

On that date at Miller’s suggestion the council set a 5:30 p.m. public meeting to discuss options for redistricting the town for voting purposes based on 2010 census data. Burns Harbor currently has three wards and two at-large council seats.

McGee said maybe all candidates could run at-large. Redistricting has to be completed by year’s end.

Oct. 17 the council also agreed at its regular meeting to accept public comment on establishing a $4.12 per-month customer user fee on Indiana American Water Co. billings to maintain the town’s IAWC hydrants. The town operating budget now absorbs that cost.

Said Perrine, “I think we can make a good case that it’s fiscally responsible to do this.” McGee said Porter and Burns Harbor are the last two area communities that don’t pass along the hydrant maintenance fee.


Posted 9/20/2012