Chesterton Tribune



Duneland School Board member wants to know cash balances in town TIF accounts

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At a special meeting earlier this month, the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission voted to formally notify other taxing units that in 2019 the total cost of planned projects plus the sum of already encumbered funds--typically bond payments--will equal or exceed this year’s tax increment financing revenues.

In short: there will be a need to “capture” all of this year’s TIF revenues and that the commission will be unable to share any of those moneys with the other taxing units, among them the Duneland School Corporation and the Westchester Public Library (WPL).

At the commission’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Associate Town Attorney Julie Paulson offered a somewhat more granular accounting of those moneys, in a statutorily required presentation to all impacted taxing units.

In fact, only the WPL was represented at that meeting, in the person of Director Lisa Stamm; and the Duneland School Corporation, in the person of School Board Member--and non-voting Redevelopment Commission member--John Marshall.

According to a five-year projection (2019-23), TIF revenues are expected annually to total approximately $1.95 million. Subtract from that figure annual debt service of between $450,000 and $459,000--and subtract as well $100,000 in annual professional fees--and the amount left actually to spend on the Redevelopment Commission’s capital improvement plan is something on the order of $1.4 million.

More: in each of the next four years, 2020-23, TIF expenditures are projected annually to total at least $2,530,944, far in excess of the $1.95 million annual reveues. Which would mean--again--that the Redevelopment Commission would be “capturing” all of those revenues from the other taxing units.

And yet this year, expenditures on the capital improvement plan are anticipated at the moment to total only $320,388, which would leave--after deducting debt service of $450,756--a balance at the end of the year of $1,079,035.

Which prompted Duneland School Board Member Marshall to wonder just how big a cash balance the Redevelopment Commission typically has at year’s end, all the more so because several of the items included on the capital improvement plan--notably the Dickinson Road extension and the proposed railroad quiet zone project--are either dormant or in a very preliminary stage. “Are these projects you’re going to undertake or might undertake?” Marshall asked.

Paulson replied that the various projects on the capital improvement plan have all been specced out and their expense averaged over five years. But she added that the “Chesterton Redevelopment Commission obviously won’t pursue projects it doesn’t have revenues for.”

Paulson noted too that some of the projects in the capital improvement plan do in fact support, for example, the Duneland School Corporation, most specifically the fiber optic network. “We are certainly benefitting those other taxing units, although they are not getting the (TIF) dollars,” she said.

Marshall accordingly asked whether Paulson might be able to make available to him further information about year-end cash balances, and how much money historically is rolling over into the next year’s coffers. “I want to know how much the commission is taking in but not spending,” he told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting.

Paulson said that she would provide Marshall with that information.

Member Jeff Trout was quick to note that it’s not a bad thing to have cash surpluses in the TIF accounts. It was just such a surplus which made it possible for the Redevelopment Commission to provide the “creative financing” which brought Urschel Laboratories Inc. and its 400 jobs to Coffee Creek Center. “You don’t know what’s going to come up,” Trout said. “We need to be prepared and that means having a cash balance. A little money in the bank is nice to sometimes have.”

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell, for his part, added that the recent replacement of the East Porter Ave. bridge over Sand Creek is an example of the sort of project that “just comes up” and genuinely needs to be funded.

Re: Angled Parking

In other business, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg presented to members a plan previously broached before the Town Council to replace parallel parking in the 100 and 300 blocks of West Indiana Ave. with angled parking, as part of a proposal to widen the sidewalk in the 200 block of Broadway.

Angling parking in those two blocks of West Indiana Ave. would add a net total of 13 parking spaces in the Downtown, after the angled parking in the 200 block of Broadway is replaced with parallel parking.

Schnadenberg remarked that years ago, when St. Patrick Church was located in what is now a Westchester Public Library parking lot--at the northwest corner of the intersection of Third Street and West Indiana Ave.--there was angled parking along West Indiana Ave. “I’m not sure how it ended up being parallel,” Schnadenberg said.

Member Emerson DeLaney did want to know why the plan doesn’t include angling parking in the 200 block of West Indiana Ave., in front of the Westchester Public Library.

Because, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell said, “It works the way it is.” As it stands, there’s a great deal of very brief double-parking in front of the library, as folks pick up and drop off there. “And it’s very busy, with lots of families and kids in and out.”

Members generally liked the plan and asked Schnadenberg to provide an estimate of the cost of the work, which would involve milling, re-paving, and striping. Ballparking it, Schnadenberg guessed the project would cost between $50,000 and $60,000, but said that he would have a better number at the commission’s next meeting.

Schnadenberg added that it would be nice to use TIF moneys for the project, to free up more funds for other projects in the $1.8-million general obligation bond issued last year for infrastructure work.

“I think it’s a worthwhile project to pursue,” Member Nick Walding remarked.


Posted 6/26/2019





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