Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County council urges voters to oppose RTA

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The Porter County Council on Tuesday took a stand in opposition to the proposed Northwest Indiana Regional Transportation District.

In the final portion of Tuesday night’s county council meeting, Council Member Rita Stevenson, D-2nd, read a resolution urging voters to vote “no” to the establishment of the new transportation district in the Nov. 3 referendum. The statement called the referendum “nonsensical” and “unnecessary.”

“We cannot afford another tax,” said Stevenson.

The referendum on the Regional Transportation District, also referred to by many as a RTA, was included in the state’s budget bill passed by this years’ Indiana Legislature. If established, the RTD would consist of up to seven boards to implement modes of transportation in the counties of Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties. One planned action includes augmenting regional bus services and another to expand and fund the South Shore line with possible spurs into Valparaiso and Lowell. The RTD would have the authority to establish a new county income tax in each member county of up to .25 percent.

Although some agencies such as the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority support the referendum in hopes it will create economic development within the region, the county council feels the RTA vote is all about raising taxes.

“Regionalization costs money… our money,” said Stevenson as she read the resolution.

The council passed the resolution with a final vote of 5-2. Those voting “no” included council members Karen Conover, R-3rd, and Mike Bucko, D-4th.

Bucko said his vote did not reflect support of the RTA but instead a vote to abstain. He said the council should not have to pass any resolution on a piece of legislation that was so poorly written in the first place.

The council also voted unanimously on a resolution not to grant funding requests from the Michigan City School district, which asked the council to help the school system reimburse the county for the costs of a school referendum that included Pine Township.

During the reading of transfer and appropriations, the council passed several items unanimously, including an additional CEDIT fund of $150,000 for the Portage Adult Education program and longevity pay for county employees with an appropriation of $160,000. County employees will receive their second longevity payout by the end of the year.

A request for more overtime pay to the auditor’s office prompted further debate. Porter County Auditor Jim Kopp told the council additional splits and transfers have come in since work was thought to be completed on Oct. 13. The council passed 4-3 in granting the $30,000 request with council members Rita Stevenson, Sylvia Graham, D-at large, and Dan Whitten, D-at large, voting no. Council President Bob Poparad, D-1st, Mike Bucko, Laura Blaney, D-at large, and Karen Conover voted yes.

The county council will meet next on Nov. 24. There is no council meeting scheduled for December.



Posted 10/28/2009




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