East Porter schools gripe about TIF district expansion
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent January 17, 2014 4:30PM
Updated: February 20, 2014 6:22AM
VALPARAISO — The city has expanded its Tax Increment Financing districts to include to planned developments in Washington Township, but representatives from East Porter County School Corp. are not satisfied with the move.
The TIF area increase includes the 33.4-acre Pratt Industries recycled paper mill on the south side of US. 30 and SJBZ Development’s planned mile-long apartments and business complex east of Indiana 49, north of Evans Avenue and west of Bartz Road.
Tuesday, the Plan Commission recommended that the city council approve the roughly 150-acre SJBZ planned-unit development.
TIF funds will be used only to improve the road and utilities going through the business park to the north, not the residential areas.
Pratt will get half the TIF for 10 years to pay off a bond issue for its $260 million plant or a pretreatment wastewater plant inside the new facility.
The Redevelopment Commission will use about $3.5 million in TIF money for roads, water or a railroad spur to the paper mill.
For parts of the properties under a TIF, all increases in taxes for 25 years will go toward improvements on the properties.
East Porter County School Board member Karen Higbie said she would like to see TIFs last only as long as the projects they support and be used for job creation, not as long-term income to fund projects the city can’t afford.
Since 2004, there have been seven addendums to the TIF areas: four for 30 years, two for 25 years and two for 10 years, she said.
She would like the Redevelopment Commission have annual tax impact statements on the TIF areas and regular reports on job creation, to see if companies bring in jobs they promise.
Higbie said East Porter schools have no say in how taxes that would otherwise go to them are spent.
East Porter School Board member Bob Martin noted that since the first TIF in 1995, the district hasn’t had a voice on the Redevelopment Commission as Valparaiso Community Schools has.
Martin asked the Redevelopment Commission to be objective about the affect TIFs have on both school districts and to consider allowing a percentage of the increased property taxes to go other taxing districts, as they did with Porter’s Vale Shopping Center for the schools district.