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
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
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
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
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.
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.