Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Town of Porter looking at ways to mitigate budget cuts

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A projection of the Town of Porter’s finances from now until 2016 showed there is hope to keep a cash balance in the general fund.

Eric Welsh, manager with H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, returned to the Porter Town Council Tuesday after having warned last fall that the balance in the general fund had dropped to an estimated $75,000 at the end of 2013, a reduction of about $330,000.

To relieve the pressure on this year’s budget, the town increased its trash fee and transferred $200,000 of its CEDIT fund to support the general fund for this year’s budget.

If nothing is done to relieve the general fund further this year, the Council could be looking at having to cut it by 20 percent for 2015, Walsh said. But there are ways money from other budgets running with healthy balances can be moved to the general fund, he said.

Council President Greg Stinson said it is the board’s hope to reduce the 20 percent cut to about 7 to 8 percent, or about $100,000. He said the Council will look to avoid slashing personnel, especially for the police department.

Walsh said the town can expect a $72,000 growth in CEDIT this year and a little over 2 percent in the growth for the tax levy for 2015.

Porter Police Chief Jaime Spanier asked what the impact to CEDIT would be once Lake County starts its own COIT income tax. Walsh said he did not have that figured but what concerns him more is the Indiana Legislature’s cut to the business personal property tax, which is still being debated by state officials.

Shifting the tax to homeowners and landlords would drive up tax rates and push the town towards its circuit breaker tax caps, Walsh said. “It’s nothing you guys can control.”

Meanwhile, Porter’s local roads and street budget is looking healthy with a balance to cover two years or more, Walsh said. The town could transfer part of that to its Motor Vehicle Highway fund, he said.

A transfer of $10,000 can be made to the general fund from revenue in the park budget. Stinson said there may be ways for the parks to generate more revenue from facility rentals.

Walsh said that Porter could also get its CCD rate back up to about 4 cents from 3 cents, bringing in about $20,000 in additional revenue.

The CCD is funded by a property tax. Walsh said a house with a $100,000 value would pay less than $10 per year additional tax.

Brickyard Trail to be complete

In a different matter, Porter Director of Development Michael Berry announced the town received approval from the Indiana Department of Transportation to finish the remaining portion of the Brickyard Trail.

A final meeting with INDOT officials will take place next week, Berry said, and work should wrap up in two weeks at the end of the footbridge crossing over U.S. 20 at the corner of Howe Rd. The town was able to acquire the land last fall. The town has continually formed the trail piece by piece starting in 2000.

“We’ve all been working a long time to get that done,” Berry said.

Also, Berry said he and Council member Elka Nelson were at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis earlier on Tuesday where they received a plaque from State Park officials for the town’s work on marketing and promoting the Dunes-Kankakee Trail. The Trail officially broke ground last year near the entrance of Dunes State Park.

Berry thanked Indiana Dunes Park Manager Brandt Baughman for making the nomination and to Porter County Tourism Bureau Director Lorelei Weimer for helping the town promote the trail.

“It’s really nice to receive this award. Everybody who worked on this project deserves a round of applause,” Berry said.

Purchases

The Council unanimously approved 5-0 a recommendation by Spainer to accept a bid from Webb Ford in Highland for two 2014 Ford Utility Explorer vehicles.

Webb Ford presented the lowest among three bids at $68,098 after trade-ins were included. The amount was $9,000 less than what the town had budgeted, Spanier said.

Spanier also spoke of sharing the costs of the reverse 911 notification system with the Town of Chesterton. He said the costs would have to be paid up front for the next three years but will be less than $2,000.

Stinson said the move seemed “logical” because the system would give accurate numbers. The town in late January approved a MOU with Chesterton to consolidate their 911 radio-dispatch operations.

Two more purchases were made to comply with mandatory regulations by the Indiana Department of Emergency Management.

One was for a portable lift pump system from Flow Techniques, which presented a bid of $37,109.

The other was for engineering and design to make 11 town lift stations connectable to the lift pump. The Council approved $17,000 for the engineering work and $2,500 for the bidding process to follow.

Both items were paid for out of the town’s sewer utility fund.

 

Posted 3/12/2014