Chesterton Tribune

Commissioners using late CEDIT money to cover E911 deficit

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

In one of its quieter meetings this year, the Porter County Board of Commissioners voted 2-0 to increase the balance inside the county’s E-911 rainy day funds with $1.27 million it recently received from the state’s discovery of mishandled local income tax money.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, told the Chesterton Tribune last week the rainy day fund would run dry in the middle of 2013 and suggested the county use the new county economic development income tax dollars (CEDIT) from the state as a way to keep the E-911 operational budget in the black for a longer time.

A state computer programming error resulted in more than $6 million returned late to Porter County and its municipalities. The funds come from 2011 and the first four months of 2012. The county will also be given an additional $63,000 in CEDIT funds for the remainder of the year from the state.

Evans mentioned a new state law will put a 90-cent surcharge on all telephone devices but lawmakers have not said when the funds may be available to provide relief for counties.

From what has been received already Evans and fellow County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, voted to appropriate $500,000 toward the E-911 rainy day budget. Absent Tuesday from the vote was Commissioner Carole Knoblock, D-South.

Conservancy fees on tax bills should be looked at, Evans says

Meanwhile, after a favorable vote to rezone the Valparaiso Lakes Area Conservancy District, Evans expressed annoyance at having conservancy district fees placed on Porter County Tax bills and seemed to push for conservancy districts to collect their fees on their own.

Admitting a commissioners’ meeting was probably not the right time or place to sound off, Evans said he feels having the amounts appear on county property bills gives taxpayers the false impression that the county is the body charging those fees when “it has nothing to do with the county.” He said the county’s auditor office has to figure the fees -- which include charges on water, sewage and drainage -- and collect the money with no reimbursement from the county’s eight conservancy districts.

“We get nothing, not a nickel from any of these,” Evans said. “We need to look at this. I think they need to be responsible for collecting their own fees.”

He said other items that appear on the bottom left of county tax bills like the Recycling and Waste Reduction District fees should remain on there because that money helps pay the county treasurer’s office for tax collection services.

Residents have complained that property taxes are too high, Evans said, and conservancy district heads are not making the effort to distinguish how much of the total amount is district fees.

County Plan Commission Director Robert Thompson told the commissioners he had investigated the matter a few years ago and said the county is “limited to what it can do” since the state would need to give its consent for conservancy district fees to go on title paperwork signed by new developers.

In other news:

• Bids were opened and received for the county highway department to use liquid asphalt material and the Porter County Sheriff’s Police which was given permission by the commissioners to purchase two new vehicles from Lakeshore Ford in Burns Harbor.

Tom Henderson, logistics captain for PCSP, put forth a recommendation to purchase a Sedan for $23,477 and a sport utility vehicle for $25,371 through the Burns Harbor dealership which he said was the only respondent to the bid request. Henderson said the state usually puts out a bid on vehicles but that was not the case this year, so he took it on his own authority to seek the bids.

The commissioners said the money to purchase police vehicles will come out of cumulative capital development funds and more vehicles will likely be purchased this year for the PCSP’s fleet.

• Two television cabinets for $645 each were approved for the Porter County Juvenile Services Center. JSC Director Alison Cox said the cabinets will keep persons from pulling down the televisions and prevent major injury.

• Evans and Adams on first reading approved a rezoning of the county’s Brincka-Cross Gardens Park located at 427 E. Furness Road from Rural Residential to Parks and Recreation. County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the new zoning would give his department the ability to develop the park in a proper manner.

 

Posted 4/18/2012