Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor TIF board mulls grant-like program for Duneland Schools

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The Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission discussed changing how it disburses money for its annual contribution to the Duneland Schools at its recent meeting.

RDC President Eric Hull said the RDC is investigating the best way to contribute Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds and tax abatement fees to the Duneland Schools. The RDC has contributed approximately $100,000 per year to Duneland Schools for the past few years to make up for tax revenue the Schools donít collect due to Burns Harborís TIF district.

Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan used to calculate the amount of the contribution based on how much tax money was not collected for the Schoolís capital projects fund, but a state-mandated shift in the way school funds are organized last year means that Jordan can no longer calculate that number.

After looking into how other Redevelopment Commissionís contribute TIF money to their local schools, the Board is considering a process similar to a grant program, where the RDC would get a list of projects the money could go toward before awarding funding.

Member Brad Enslen said he was concerned about the RDC getting too involved in School projects. Ron Stone, non-voting Duneland School Board representative on the RDC, was similarly concerned that a grant program could put more work on teachers and cause problems if certain programs are approved for funding while others arenít.

Hull said the goal would be to make sure the TIF funds go directly to meaningful and unique projects and donít just get lost in the budget. Hull said the RDC isnít interested in deciding the importance of projects or micromanaging, but they want to contribute in a way that maximizes benefits for students. RDC member Nick Loving said the City of Hobart disburses TIF funds in a grant-like program.

RDC Attorney Clay Patton said such an agreement would need official parameters about how projects are approved for funding. No action was taken this month, but the RDC is hoping to continue its trend of contributing to the Schools every February and August.

CMAQ Grant Funds

Hull said a paperwork error that caused the Federal Highway Administration to short the Town about $649,000 from a $1.6 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant it had won for the Marquette Greenway Trail has been corrected thanks to Karnerblue Consultant Tina Rongers. The Town has the full amount now because Rongers followed up consistently to ask about any freed-up funding, according to Hull.

Westport PUD

RDC member Toni Biancardi reported Holladay Properties is gearing up to present a completed planned unit development (PUD) application for the Westport Development at the February Plan Commission meeting.

Biancardi said the RDC is now leaning toward doing one municipal building instead of two and building it from pre-cast concrete to keep costs low and design options open. Hull and Enslen noted pre-cast concrete can be made to look like brick, sandstone, or other materials for a fraction of the price.

Rongers said Holladayís goal is to reach 30 percent design, which gives them enough to work with to get prices from contractors. Biancardi made a reminder that whatís planned at the 30-percent marker isnít necessarily the final product--itís still an exploratory phase. Biancardi also said the most accurate information residents can get about the new development is from whatís said at public meetings, the minutes of which are public online.

The RDC also authorized Holladay Properties to present on its behalf in dealings with the Town, at Pattonís recommendation. Holladay representing the Board makes sense since the development will require a lot of collaboration between the RDC and the Town, which share several members, Patton said.


Posted 12/27/2019




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