A committee made up
of citizens will be named in the next few weeks as the next step in forming
a community endowment foundation to invest some of the principal fund from
the sale of the county owned Porter Memorial Hospital. It is hoped the
revenue generated can help fill Porter County Government’s budget gaps.
The idea of a
committee was hatched by the County Board of Commissioners and the County
Council at the end of a joint meeting Monday after discussions with
Indianapolis attorney Brian Burdick of Barnes & Thornburg LLP on what may
happen in the Indiana General Assembly next year regarding Indiana counties’
options in investing their revenue portfolios.
President John Evans, R-North, said changes in legislation could be another
method in addition to the community foundation to capture more interest on
the hospital sale.
Burdick serves as
legal counsel to the Indiana Association of County Treasurers and the
Indiana Bond Bank and was instrumental in the state’s investment of Major
Moves money, from the sale of the Indiana Toll Road.
Since the County
sold the hospital for $160 million, Evans invited Burdick to inform his
colleagues what the chances are that such legislation will be enacted.
Burdick said there
are a number of other counties which have sold large assets and are looking
toward investment as a way to offset the effect of the state imposed tax
caps and the issue has come to the attention of state lawmakers.
“In order to make
more money, you need some flexibility in your investment options,” Burdick
treasurers don’t have many options for public investment that go beyond
putting money in a coffee can and burying it in backyards, he said, but he
advised county officials to lobby lawmakers to draft laws that would give
them the same maximum investment parameters as state officials have for
their capital, such as the Major Moves money. The County should be able to
maintain its power over spending of those dollars, he added.
Burdick said the
state is allowed to invest in many ways other than stocks.
Robert Poparad, D-at large, asked Burdick “what are the odds” the
legislators will pass such measures next year.
“If you don’t
overreach, I think it’s pretty good,” Burdick responded. He would recommend
controls be put in place to protect the public’s money, such as requiring
working with a knowledgeable investor.
Sitting in the
audience, local State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said that it won’t be
known for certain what legislation will be coming from the Statehouse until
the session gets underway, but from the conversations he’s had with others
downstate over the past few months, “there is a lot of energy to do this” he
“I think this is
good legislation, good for the state, good for you; but just because it
looks good doesn’t mean it’s for certain,” said Soliday.
Council member Jim
Biggs, R-1st, said he had doubts going into the meeting about the chances
the state would expand investment options “because of the risk involved” but
he felt more optimistic after hearing Burdick’s and Soliday’s comments.
Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he too was glad to hear Porter is not
the only county trying to get lawmakers to work on their behalf.
Biggs said he felt
the $5,000 a month that the Commissioners agreed to pay Burdick’s firm for
each month the Indiana General Assembly is in session may be “money well
spent” on the County’s part.
As for the
Foundation, which both the Council and Commissioners supported creating,
Council president Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he believes the County will
be able to start putting as much money as they have available from the
principal into the endowment fund.
Mike Bucko, who is retiring later this week, said that at the end of July
the county should have $68 million available in cash on hand from the
hospital sale principal that is not tied up in investments, and another $40
million or so by the end of this year. Bucko also said that the County is
currently making about $1 million a year in interest off the hospital sale
Karen Conover, R-3rd, said that when a county sells an asset such as the
hospital, the principal should be held on to and not used for operational
expenses. The County has used some of the interest in the last year or two
to shore up troubled funds.
Scott McClure said he is working on an ordinance to set up the county
Foundation and would need to know from the Council and Commissioners who
would be appointed to a board of the foundation.
Whitten talked with
the Commissioners last week and suggested there be an odd number of members,
with appointments made by the Commissioners or the Council, and one by the
Treasurer. Others on the Council felt that the appointments could be made
jointly, as the County makes its appointment to the Regional Development
Authority, and that one board could veto the other.
Biggs said minimum
requirements should be written up and included before the board is formed.
Poparad said the appointments should cut across party lines, while
Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, said he would like all areas of the County
In the end, it was
decided among the boards that a committee be set up to explore what
qualifications are needed to be appointed to the Foundation board and to
advise the Council and Commissioners on what may be included in the
will announce that they are seeking applications for the committee at their
next regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 5.