Chesterton Tribune

Worthington Steel tax cut hits Porter Redevelopment Commission funds

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The outgoing Porter Town Council voted 5-0 under suspension of the rules Tuesday to borrow $1,551,676 from the Indiana Bond Bank to cover future operating expenses.

The general fund, which finances police, fire and other necessary services, will receive $1,451,080 and the parks and recreation fund $100,596.

Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy, who begins a third term in January, urged the council to adopt the enabling ordinance or else the town would be short funds before its 2012 property-tax draws are received.

In past years the Town Council borrowed internally securing short-term, no-interest loans from the Porter Redevelopment Commission, but that option isnít available.

The RDC voted earlier in the evening to pay Porter County $313,152 from RDC-controlled funds to settle a $831,000 tax appeal won by Worthington Steel this summer. The balance of the RDCís repayment will come by the county withholding the commissionís final 2011 tax distribution.

Porter County officials initially had warned that the RDCís June, 2012 payment would be withheld as well, but town financial consultant Karl Cender said they now want the cash balance instead.

RDC president Michele Bollinger said although her first reaction was no, she supports making the payment so the tax draws can resume next year as planned.

Cender said the RDC currently has just over $1 million in cash and investments; anticipated expenses will drive down the RDC balance to about $458,663 before the June 2012 payment. The RDC is involved in several large projects including three hike/bike trails, a sewer-system upgrade, and the Gateway and Brickyard development projects.

RDC member Trevin Fowler asked if Porter could offer a lesser cash payment and take reduced tax draws to settle the debt, but he eventually proposed paying the $313,152 outright so the new Redevelopment Commission appointed by the incoming Town Council can begin with a clean slate.

Real estate attorney Elka Nelson, who joins the council Jan. 1, said after the meeting she would have preferred to negotiate a repayment with the county rather than draw down RDC cash because additional taxpayer appeals are still pending.

Cender had told the RDC that county officials probably would try to work with Porter although they prefer all the money be repaid to balance their 2011 books.

Bollinger said she would hope county officials notify the RDC if future appeals are granted so Porter can negotiate how a refund will be paid back rather than unilaterally doing it without the townís knowledge.

Member LeAnn McCrum joined Fowler and Bollinger in paying the $313,152 now with member Al Raffin absent and the fifth RDC seat vacant for several months. Non-voting member Ron Stone did not attend.

Also Tuesday, the Town Council unanimously adopted a 2012 salary schedule for employees, done so at Pomeroyís suggestion to facilitate payroll. No raises were granted but by separate resolution the council gave employees three additional personal days off, to be used subject to department head approval, as a benefit in lieu of raises that canít be carried over into 2013.

Nelson later said the new Town Council will make amendments to the salary ordinance based on employee repositioning. Porter town employees are compensated based on a merit-pay system.

Posted 12/14/2011