The first proposed tax increment financing district (TIF) in unincorporated
Porter County could mean more utility improvements for residents living
along the U.S. 6 corridor and possibly more general fund money for the
Duneland School Corporation.
But it could also mean a lower number for the county’s total assessed value.
Those are things the Porter County Redevelopment Commission wishes to find
out before making a recommendation to the Plan Commission and the County
Commissioners for approval of TIF boundaries around Porter Regional
On Thursday, Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson showed
commission members Dave Burrus, John Shepherd, Jim Polarek and non-voting
school advisor Ralph Ayres a map showing the parameters of an allocation
area surrounding the hospital at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49 in Liberty Twp.
A committee consisting of Thompson, Shepherd and Burrus was formed at the
commission’s December meeting to begin mapping TIF districts.
The hospital, as the map shows, would be in the center of the TIF area.
Meridian Road and CR 900N would serve as the northwest boundary. Where
Calumet Ave. and CR 900N meet would be the northeast TIF boundary. From
there, the TIF would run south down Calumet until it reaches about CR 750N.
The southwest tip would run alongside the boundary line of Sunset Hill Farm
County Park near CR 700N and Meridian Road.
TIF revenue would only be collected from new commercially zoned properties,
Thompson said. However, he said it can aid all properties regardless of
zoning classification by putting in new infrastructure and utilities, which
is why the Sunset Hill Farm property was included even though it is zoned
for park use.
The area looked at also includes two mobile home parks that could receive
new sewer sanitary systems, as well as revamped utilities to help drainage
in other neighborhoods such as Timberland Farms.
The committee also proposed to extend the TIF district west beyond Meridian
Road by limiting it to just the U.S. 6 roadway and contiguous commercial
There are areas zoned for commercial development around the U.S. 6 and
Calumet Ave. intersection, Thompson pointed out, and on the St. Andrews
property next to the hospital which has recently broken ground on building
But the inclusion of the 104-acre hospital property in the TIF is what made
Polarek, the fourth district representative on the County Council, question
how much of an impact it would have on the county’s total assessed value.
The County Council had granted the hospital a 10-year tax abatement that
would gradually phase in assessed value year-by-year.
Shepherd acknowledged that the new assessed values would go to the
Redevelopment Commission as TIF revenue rather than local taxing units, but
the tax revenue could be passed through.
Polarek suggested to his colleagues to “cut out the footprint” of the
hospital from the map, saying putting a TIF on the property was too much of
a risk to the county’s AV, given that other areas are close to hitting the
tax caps. “That’s a large chunk that would be gone,” he said.
Excluding the hospital would mean there would be more reliance on other
commercial properties for infrastructure improvements, Shepherd added.
Burrus said the commission should find out the financial impacts of their
options. “We have a discussion we need to keep open. There are benefits
either way,” he said.
The members decided they will call upon a financial advisor to provide some
insights to them and to heads of local taxing units involved such as the
Duneland School Corporation, the Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department,
and Liberty Township Trustee Beth Underwood. The commission plans to have
the discussion at its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21.
In addition, the Commission will also be seeking the opinions of a legal
advisor in its efforts to set TIF geographical boundaries. Shepherd
suggested Portage City Attorney Greg Sobkowski as the legal advisor and Karl
Cender as the financial advisor.
general fund money?
Meanwhile, SEH Director of Government Affairs Doug Olson sitting in the
audience asked the commission whether instead of pass-throughs, if they
could instead “grant an X number of dollars” to the school district’s
general fund – the budget that pays for teaching, staff and school programs.
The state’s current school funding formula shifts the use of property tax
revenue away from general funds, but schools’ capital improvement project
funds and bus replacement fund are still generated by property taxes. A
member of the Duneland School Board, Ayres pointed out schools cannot
transfer money from one fund to the other.
Shepherd said there may be flexibility in how TIF revenues can be directed
to the schools but the question will have to be put to the legal advisor.
Ayres said if money can be granted from the TIF district, it would be
helpful to the school district to know how much it will get as the district
plans beyond a one-year budget. He said he would make his fellow school
board members aware of the commission’s discussion.
Traffic on 6
With the accepted notion that more development will be mushrooming along
U.S. 6, the Commission discussed the topic of widening the road to
accommodate the traffic coming in and out of Porter Regional Hospital.
“The traffic patterns have shifted dramatically,” said Ayres who mentioned
the Duneland School Board had written a letter to the Indiana Department of
Transportation in July inquiring if there will be actions taken to make
travel safer for school buses in the additional traffic generated around the
Now that the hospital has opened its doors, proper traffic studies can be
done, Ayres said. More traffic has been seen from the east, he said, as
Portage motorists are traveling to the hospital. Ayres said he has also
noticed increased traffic on surrounding county roads.
Thompson reported that there are nothing in INDOT’s Statewide Transportation
Improvement plan on U.S. 6 and the project could take until 2018 or later,
unless the County is willing to kick in some of the funds.
Commission members said they would like to see if municipalities in the
County such as the Town of Chesterton and the Cities of Portage of
Valparaiso as well as the County Commissioners and the Duneland School Board
would help rally for INDOT to take action.
Thompson said he believes the redevelopment commission would be the best
entity to make the official request to INDOT. He plans to discuss the matter
at an upcoming Commissioners meeting.
Ayres noted the Duneland School Board also sent inquiries to the County
Commissioners last year about ways they could improve safety at the CR 700N
intersection of Meridian Rd. Board member Ron Stone had said there are seven
to ten accidents per year there and it is the second worst intersection in
the county for traffic collisions.
Thompson said the Commissioners have asked him to look at different
alternatives there. Thinking conditions at the intersection could be
improved with TIF revenues, the redevelopment commission will try to include
it as part of the proposed TIF district.
Absent from the
meeting Thursday were commission members President Ric Frataccia and Jeremy