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Valparaiso residents debate tax district’s impact on schools

Updated: February 27, 2014 6:28AM



VALPARAISO — The handling of a proposed tax increment finance district around Porter County Regional Airport has so impressed some Liberty Township residents that they want the county’s redevelopment commission to reconsider a TIF district around the new hospital.

Residents of the township had asked the commission not to institute a TIF district because of concerns about the impact the district could have on the Duneland schools, but those concerns have been addressed by what they’ve seen from the commission.

“Some of you took that to heart,” said Tim Cole, a former Liberty Township board member and lifelong resident of the township, noting the commission’s work for a fair deal for the East Porter schools in Washington Township, included in the airport TIF district. “We realized there could be changes that would be friendly to us.”

Several members of the Porter County Council balked at the idea of a TIF district around Porter Regional Hospital, at Indiana 49 and U.S. 6, because the hospital is already receiving a tax abatement from the county.

The commission backed away from the hospital TIF district, turning instead to the area around the airport. At their December meeting, the commission agreed that 40 percent of the revenue from that district would go back to taxing units in the district, including the East Porter schools. The commission also will return any unused funds back to the taxing units.

“It’s a good, fair distribution of revenue from the TIF area,” Cole said, encouraging the county’s board of commissioners to institute a corridor plan for U.S. 6 that includes the highway’s intersection with Indiana 49, “because without that plan, a TIF cannot get off to a very good start.”

When a tax-increment financing district is established, the property tax collections are frozen; any growth in tax revenue goes into a separate fund intended to help fund development in that district. As a result, for the life of the TIF district, the usual taxing bodies, such as schools, see no growth in tax revenue from that area.

Commission members weren’t sure what it would take to move forward with the hospital TIF district, since they tabled the plan several months ago after the board of commissioners suggested the airport district.

“I think this is a very positive and refreshing presentation,” member Dave Burrus said, adding the proposal would take more work.

The commission also reviewed the next steps for the airport plan, which could be in place by spring. It is expected to go before the plan commission on Feb. 12.

Post-Tribune staff report



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