Rather than shift the majority of property taxes onto Burns Harbor residents
when Bethlehem Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001, that Town Council
dramatically slashed its budget to collect less money.
But since Indiana tax officials only allow an annual percentage increase
based on the previous year’s budget, town officials say they’ve never
climbed out of the hole that was created a decade ago.
At a workshop Thursday, the Town Council voted 5-0 to seek to generate more
cash for needed expenses by increasing to the maximum 5 cents the rate for
the cumulative capital development fund. The town’s current CCDF rate is
just over one-half cent raising $29,805 of annual revenue.
The Town Council will conduct a public hearing, decide the length of time
the 5-cent rate would be applicable, and forward its request to the
Department of Local Government Finance by Aug. 1. A remonstrance period
would follow, after which DLGF will issue an order approving, disapproving
or modifying the cumulative fund rate sought.
The council is likely to take up the matter at its April 11 meeting.
Councilman Greg Miller said the CCDF has been underutilized as a way to
raise cash, and that Burns Harbor’s rate is the second lowest for a city or
town in Porter County. Councilman Jeff Freeze said it’s well below the CCDF
rate imposed by Chesterton and Porter.
Miller said the impact to the average Burns Harbor residential taxpayer will
be minimal with industry paying the lion’s share of the CCDF increase. He
noted that fund has the most flexibility and its revenue can be spent for
any legal purpose so the extra money can be applied where needed.
Council member Mike Perrine said, “You drive around this town and you have
roads becoming impassable. If we don’t find some money, things won’t get any
The Burns Harbor municipal property tax rate is 31.92 cents this year.
Perrine said taxpayers have been getting a break since they saw an
approximately 66 percent decrease in their tax rate 11 years ago.
At that time, “We had a great deal of money in town, things were booming and
everything was good,” Perrine explained, but the Bethlehem bankruptcy
changed everything under Indiana’s frozen levy.
Perrine said he didn’t think increasing to the 5-cent CCDF rate would be an
undue hardship on taxpayers. Miller said the council can change the rate in
the future if it becomes necessary.
In other business at the workshop, the council discussed a proposed 2012
salary ordinance and agreed to give full-time employees a 4 percent raise.
The ordinance must be formally adopted.
Council members also unanimously authorized town attorney Bob Welsh to bring
to Porter Superior Court Judge David Chidester’s attention allegations of
additional violations of town code.
Late last year at the town’s request Chidester issued an injunction barring
William Scott dba Scott’s Way from operating a truck terminal and dispatch
operation at 277 Melton Rd., or in any other way violating the town’s zoning
ordinance. Chidester imposed a $1,000 per-day fine if Scott didn’t cease
illegal trucking operations after Dec. 19, 2011.
A $5 fine also would be assessed after that date for each day of violation
of the sign ordinance.
Thursday’s workshop, the Town Council met with Welsh in closed executive
session to discuss litigation.