The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) cut a total of
$847,960 from the Town of Chesterton’s 2012 budget.
Part of the hewing and hacking was routine cuts which DLGF always makes to a
municipality’s annual budget.
But a large part of at downsizing—enough to bring this year’s budget
below the 2011 budget—was the result of a penalty assessed the town
because it failed to meet a publication deadline last year. Under Indiana
Code, municipalities are required to publish their advertised
budgets—twice—by Sept. 10 of every year. Last year, the town published the
first time on Sept. 9 and the second on Sept. 16.
Now, Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski is announcing that the full $847,960
cut from the 2012 budget should be restored to the 2013 budget.
Which is a good thing.
But DLGF is also recommending that municipalities planning their 2013
budgets increase their total levy by no more than 2.8 percent, which would
give the town only $179,128 in additional property-tax revenues next year.
Which the Town Council thinks is a bad thing.
So, at a special meeting Monday night, members unanimously agreed to go for
broke and—instead of requesting a 2.8-percent increase in this year’s total
levy—ask DLGF for a 3.2-percent increase. If DLGF allows the request, it
would mean total additional property-tax revenues of $204,718.
In other business, members agreed to ask contracted financial consultant
London Witte Group to review a proposal by the Chesterton Fire Department to
establish its own ambulance service, in what Fire Chief Mike Orlich believes
would, sooner rather than later, provide the town with a new revenue stream.
In July 2011, the CFD presented to the council the findings of a year-long
study which indicated that—depending on the prices charged to patients by
the CFD for the service and on the level of Medicaid and insurance
reimbursement—a municipal ambulance service could pay for itself in a number
of years, with potential surplus revenues on the low end of $50,000 and on
the high end of $140,000.
The CFD has continued to study the matter in the year since that
presentation and is now estimating that, within six months of establishing
the service, the CFD could begin to repay a $235,000 seed-money loan from
Those funds would be needed to hire four full-time personnel and a part-time
billing clerk. Meanwhile, Orlich said, the CFD is researching other funding
sources for the estimated $200,000 needed to purchase two ambulances.
Members liked what they heard but were cautious as well. Member Sharon
Darnell, D-4th, emphasized the need for a formal repayment plan to be in
place, while Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, added that, should an ambulance
service prove not to be a positive revenue source, the council would reserve
the right to cancel it and terminate those new personnel hired to staff it.
“If we do this, we are going to catch grief from certain parties,” DeLaney
said. “But we’re going to get support too.”
“It’s easy to say ‘Don’t do it,’” Orlich said for his part. “But we know
it’s for the best.” Orlich added that, unlike other municipalities in Porter
County, the Town of Chesterton will have a choice of easy-access medical
facilities: the new Porter hospital in Liberty Township and the Franciscan
Alliance ER department on Indian Boundary Road. “We have that luxury,” he
said. “Turn-around time will be next to nothing.”
At the moment, the CFD is looking at April 1, 2013, as the start-up date,
should the council agree to establish the ambulance service.
Nothing will be done, however, until the London Witte Group crunches the
numbers and assesses the plan’s feasibility.