Valpo looks to expand use of special taxing districts
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent September 22, 2013 6:12PM
Updated: September 23, 2013 9:11PM
VALPARAISO — The city is taking the first steps in expanding two tax-increment financing districts because of two recent business expansions.
The first tax district would be for Pratt/Visy Industries, which is expanding its current operations, Pratt Paper on Indiana 49. The company earlier this month announced it will build a $260 million recycled paper plant to the east.
Valparaiso Redevelopment Executive Director Stu Summers said the south Indiana 49 TIF expansion will coincide with Pratt having 30 acres annexed into the city.
Annexation proceedings should begin at the Oct. 8 Plan Commission meeting.
The Redevelopment Commission on Thursday approved an agreement paying Cender and Co. of Merrillville no more than $7,500 to work on the expansion.
Summer said the TIF money would go toward financial incentive agreements the city made with Pratt.
The commission members also approved Summers executing a similar agreement for expanding a northern tax-increment district to include the northern part of the SJBZ development east of Indiana 49 and between Vale Park Road and Evans Avenue.
Don Weiss is a principal in SJBZ.
City Administrator Bill Oeding asked the commission to put TIF money toward a two-lane road of less than half a mile through the 32.33-acre business park section of the land.
The road could be expanded into a four-lane road, which the city would likely to run from Vale Park to Evans and possibly Indiana 2 in the future.
Oeding said that the city had considered Bartz Road, east of the proposed development of luxury apartments, for expansion, but this would leave residents on that road alone.
The proposed road would also save the city from purchasing land and have SJBZ handle the costs of lights and pipes and the original two-lane road, while SJBZ gets a road in the business park.
When a tax-increment financing district is created, the amount of property taxes collected the the usual government needs is frozen. Additional taxes generated above that amount within the tax district boundaries is used to pay for improvements in the area.
The idea is to promote development, but taxing bodies dealing with frozen tax collections aren’t always happy with the approach.
That would include members of the East Porter Township School Board, who were at the meeting to voice concerns about growing TIFs.
Board member Karen Higbie asked that the commission consider allowing the school district, which runs Washington Township Schools, to tap some of the TIF money.
The commission has allowed the school district 40 percent of the tax money it would have received from other TIF ventures.
Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin said that because Pratt is estimated to bring 128 new jobs and more than 500 indirect jobs, “it’s reasonable to expect that we’ll have more students” and need more space.