When the Porter County Redevelopment Commission formed in the summer of
2012, the Commission members were adamant about one thing -- that any tax
increment finance (TIF) area implemented within the unincorporated areas of
the county should not negatively impact school districts.
They decided take this principle a step further Thursday, asking their legal
adviser Gregg Sobkowski to draft a resolution that would essentially state
that money collected by the Redevelopment Commission in a TIF area would be
passed through to schools equal to what their allocation would have been had
there not been a TIF implemented in the first place.
“We need to get that in writing, 100 percent, that it can’t be changed year
per year,” said Commission member Jim Polarek, who hopes the resolution will
become a permanent standard for future County RDC members.
Sobkowski said he will attempt the task, but told the board he will need to
adhere to Indiana state code regarding redevelopment commissions.
There are at least two ways Sobkowski is aware of that RDCs can aid school
districts using TIF money. RDCs can fund economic development projects
directly for school improvements or give 15 percent of captured tax
increment funds to schools that teach job skills.
But Sobkowski said he would have to look into the possibility of money being
passed directly through to the schools,
The potential resolution was part of a discussion centered on whether a TIF
allocation area should be created around the Porter County Regional Airport
in Washington Twp. and how it would affect the East Porter County Schools
Rod Gardin, superintendent for East Porter County Schools, and EPCS board
member Bob Martin said their district is impacted by a TIF area imposed by
the City of Valparaiso at Porter Vale shopping center where the district
overlaps with city property. The TIF now has a pass-through but Gardin said
his district is granted just 40 percent of the tax increment and he is
opposed to the prospect of an additional TIF district because of
But RDC President E. Ric Frattacia, who is also superintendent of the
Portage Schools District, told Gardin that he and his colleagues also
strongly oppose shorting schools of any tax revenue, which they have
expressed often since their inaugural meeting. He said they would be “going
against their charter” if a TIF was imposed without protective measures for
schools in place.
“That’s public record,” Frattacia said. “I don’t think it’s our intent to
make enemies. Our intent is to have economic development so people have
work. The intent is not to harm the schools.”
Frattacia suggested the Commission work together with school officials as
they consider the airport TIF and come up with ways that both sides can
benefit. He said the declaratory resolution will be “much different” than
other redevelopment commissions and asked Sobkowski to incorporate Gardin’s
Commission members Polarek and Dave Burrus talked about the possibility of
adding another ex-officio member to the board from East Porter County
Schools, in addition to its non-voting advisor and Duneland School Board
member Ralph Ayres. If that is not possible, they will try appointing a
Airport development plan
Also during the meeting, the Commission received an economic development
plan on the airport from its financial advisor Dan Botich of Cender and
Company that would encompass 2.6 square miles, from U.S. 30 to the south and
Ind. 2 to the north and east of the Ind. 49 corridor.
Most of the land there is zoned for light industrial with some commercial,
Botich said, and the economic development plan identified projects totaling
$48.7 million that could be funded with the money collected in the
Botich said one of the goals is developing shovel-ready sites for “white
collar jobs” and jobs related to the airport. Other goals are to discourage
strip developments and preserve open spaces wherever possible.
Polarek said the City of Valparaiso is beginning to annex properties in the
area and just this month added a triangular area between County Roads 325 E
and 400 E. south of U.S. 30 of about 55 acres that is owned by Von Tobel
Lumber and the city is poised to annex another large site where Pratt
Industries will build its new recycling plant south of U.S. 30.
As long as it is unincorporated, the County can set boundaries for a
redevelopment zone and can still collect tax increment funds from the
allocation area for a time even if some or all of the property is later
annexed to a municipality.
Botich said he has spoken with Valparaiso officials who indicated they have
no current plans to annex land on the airport property.
The commission asked Botich if he would expand the economic development plan
for the airport to include more area south of U.S. 30 including the Porter
County Expo Center which is currently being studied by the tourism bureau
for upgrades that could be fueled by TIF revenue.
Botich said he expects he can have the new plan ready by the RDC’s next
meeting on Nov. 21.
Liberty Twp. TIF tabled still
Thursday’s meeting attracted a small crowd of Liberty Twp. residents, Ed and
Vi Gutt and Tim Cole, who waited to hear any updates on the so-called
Liberty Twp. Economic Development area surrounding Porter Regional Hospital
and Sunset Hill Farm which was shelved last meeting.
Commission member Sylvia Graham said the matter is still tabled and she said
had spoken with County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, who agreed that the
airport would be a better place to start the County’s first redevelopment