Letter from council urges Porter County department heads to be mindful of spending
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent January 29, 2014 12:36PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 4:01PM
VALPARAISO — Porter County department heads can expect to get a letter soon asking them to watch their spending.
“Either they cut their budgets and they cut their spending, or we’re going to do it for them,” Porter County Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-Large, said during Tuesday’s meeting.
The letter — suggested by Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd District — comes as the county faces a $5.3 million budget shortfall for this year, which could be close to $8 million in 2015.
“We are in the red, without question,” Whitten said at the start of the meeting.
A proposal by Gov. Mike Pence to phase out the state’s personal property tax would cost the county an additional $2.5 million a year; the council also unanimously passed a resolution against the plan, which states the phase-out “would result in an unfair shift of tax burden from businesses to residents.”
“That would be devastating to us,” Whitten said.
A partial solution to the county’s budget problem is investing the proceeds from the sale of the county hospital, though Whitten said that wouldn’t help this year because of the time it takes to invest the money.
The council set a joint meeting with the Board of Commissioners to discuss those investment options for 5 p.m. March 12. Also attending will be representatives from the Porter County Community Foundation, and the Indianapolis law firm Hall, Render, Killian, Heath and Lyman. The law firm put together an analysis of investment options for the proceeds.
In the meantime, Whitten said the county can deplete its unallocated county economic development income tax funds and spend more of the interest from the hospital sale, but “that seems like a fool’s errand.”
The other option is cutting back on spending, “and next year, let’s hope we find some money.”
In other financial matters, the council will discuss the tax abatement for Porter Regional Hospital at its next meeting. Council attorney Scott McClure said additional financial information is still being gathered.
The county and the hospital differ on when the 10-year abatement should begin in relation to when the hospital, at Indiana 49 and U.S. 6, opened.
Additionally, highway supervisor Al Hoagland said the brutal winter weather has the county running low on salt.
“The supply is just not available,” he said, adding he ordered 3,000 tons in July, with an option for another 500 tons, which he ordered more than a month ago and still has not been delivered.