Chesterton Tribune

Residents seek to block higher tax levy for services to new Chesterton annexations

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By KEVIN NEVERS

A group of 15 Chesterton residents has filed a petition with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) objecting to the excess levy appeal which the Town Council is seeking to include in its 2009 budget.

According to the 2009 advertised budget, the council is seeking an excess levy of $860,583 to fund municipal services for a number of recently annexed areas, including 132 acres east of Friday Road slated for a 362-unit single-family planned unit development and 77 acres south of the Indiana Toll Road slated for a 430,000-square foot strip mall.

That $860,583 figure represents slightly more than 17 percent of the total levy of $4,932,823 which Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski has estimated for 2009, and is comprised of three separate line items in the 2009 advertised budget: $621,872 for the General Fund (or 12 percent of the total $5,167,335 estimated for the General Fund); $87,550 for Motor Vehicle Highway (or 7 percent of the total $1,214,904 estimated for MVH); and $151,161 for Parks and Recreation (or 28 percent of the total $527,752 estimated for Parks and Recreation).

The objecting petition was signed by Thomas Beck, Lloyd Williams, Robert Williams, Paul Atrosh, Dolores Iwan, Juliette Long, Marilyn Cook, Fay Popp, Chris Gilbertson, David Grismer, Helen Michaels, Bruce Deckard, Lisa Berke, Marlene Westergren, Gordon Michaels, and Linda Zeidler. In that petition they cite three grounds of objection:

•“The annexations that have taken place and which these excess levies are based upon have no development started (no roads, no homes, no parks, no water, no sewer),” the petition states.

To which the town, in a mandatory response also filed with DLGF, responded: “The Town Council will consider phasing in the excess levy appeal over a period not to exceed four years . . . if it is evident that all the costs of providing services will not be incurred in 2009. This question will be addressed at the levy appeal hearing before the DLGF.”

•“The current taxpayers of Chesterton should not incur the expense caused by the developers for their annexed property; instead the developers should pay for the incurred expense and then recoup their cost when they sell the property,” the petition states.

To which the town responded: “The Town of Chesterton is responsible for providing services to the newly annexed areas including, but not limited to, the following: public safety, street maintenance, parks, and administration. These services and their associated costs are of a recurring nature. There is no method of passing these recurring costs back to the developers that is authorized by state statute.”

•Finally, the petitions states, “These excess levies in each category are a wish list by the department heads based on certain standards, but the existing town does not meet those standards and the taxpayers should not shoulder the total expense for those standards for a new subdivision.”

To which the town responded: “The proposed 2009 budget shows estimated costs to provide services to all residents of the Town of Chesterton, including the newly annexed areas. When developing the budget for servicing the newly annexed areas, the town followed the statutory requirement that services be provided at levels consistent with the service provided for the rest of the town.”

Objections or not, the council voted 4-0 to adopt the 2009 advertised budget, including the excess levy. Member Dave Cincoski, R-3rd, was not in attendance.

Polakowski estimated a 2009 tax rate of $0.9096 per $100 of assessed valuation. She emphasized, however, that she expects DLGF—as it typically does—to recalculate the town’s assessed valuation upwards with the effect of recalculating the municipal tax rate downwards.

The municipal tax rate represents only a portion of the total tax rate paid by Chesterton property owners. The total rate also includes a state rate, a Porter County rate, a Porter County Airport rate, a Westchester Township rate, a Westchester Township Library rate, and a Duneland School Corporation rate.

 

Posted 9/23/2008