posttrib
COARSE 
Weather Updates

Lake Council votes 4-3 in favor of county option income tax

Meetings
will move
to evenings

Lake County Council meetings will take place at 6:30 p.m. beginning in May.

Council members Tuesday voted 4-3 to move the 10 a.m. sessions to 6:30 p.m. in a measure introduced by Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago. Cid said the move was to enable more residents to attend the sessions. She has been pushing for the change since she took office.

Council members Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, Jerome Prince, D-Gary, and President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart voted against the switch.

“It is a compromise,” Cid said. Monthly work sessions still will take place in the County Council offices at 10 a.m. the Thursday prior to the council meeting. Regular council meetings will take place in the auditorium until construction is complete on the new staircase and elevator in the government center.

Franklin said the move was not being made to help residents but to assist Cid who is an employee in Lake County Treasurer John Petalas’ office. Attendance did not increase with the time change.

“We’ve tried this time and time again. … I personally think this is a benefit to one person on the council. I don’t think we should change things to benefit one person,” Franklin said.

Lake County Surveyor George Van Til said this is not the first time the council has attempted evening meetings. Van Til said when he was a councilman in the early 1990s officials approved his request to change the meetings to night so more residents could attend.

“It really did not have an impact,” Van Til said.

Updated: May 11, 2013 6:28AM



CROWN POINT — A divided Lake County Council on Tuesday passed on first reading a 1.5 percent county option income tax package, the first step in enacting the income taxes officials expect to create a new revenue source and provide residential property tax relief to some.

Emotions at times ran high at times among the 100 people including officials from Hobart, Merrillville, St. John, Schererville and Lowell who came to speak out for or against the tax. Like the council itself, the audience was divided.

Hobart Councilman Dave Vinzant and Councilwoman Chrissy Barron of Merrillville, along with Dan Murchek, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor, said the tax is needed to ensure quality of life, protect public safety and simply run their towns.

County officials are proposing a three-pronged approach: a 1 percent County Adjusted Gross Income Tax, a one-quarter of 1 percent Public Safety County Adjusted Gross Income Tax and a one-quarter of 1 percent County Economic Development Tax.

“In the event the option tax is passed, it is not enough. Lake County … has to continue on the path of cutting,” said Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart.

An estimated $81 million will be generated by the 1 percent CAGIT, which will be used to provide an equal amount of property tax relief to Lake County homesteaders, according to documents provided by the county. The revenues will be allocated among the individual taxing units based on per capita income.

The public safety tax and CEDIT will be the only new sources of revenue created by the tax. Revenues generated from the public safety tax will be used for public safety purposes in the county including the consolidated E-911 center. The CEDIT can be used for a wider variety of purposes including re-establishing the bridge and drainage levies zeroed out during the 2013 budgeting process.

Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said he knows county officials have made a lot of cuts to government, but more must be done. He offered up a plan for additional cuts to the county budget he would like to see go into effect before an income tax is approved.

“There are still hard decisions to be made,” Strong said.

Councilman David Hamm said further cuts would begin to impact county services that residents expect and could endanger public safety, which consumes the lion’s share of county revenues.

Residents, including Paula Burrell of Crown Point, said adding new taxes will change behavior of residents and could force those who stand to pay the most to move out of Lake County.

Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, said she needs more information on how the tax will impact her constituents before she can approve it. Cid said she wants to know what her constituents will be paying compared to what they will be getting back.

“The public deserves, in my opinion, to at least be informed,” Cid said. She plans to host a town hall meeting in her district to discuss the tax and its impact.

Passage of the ordinances on first reading is only a first step. County Council members must approve a second reading of the ordinance to enact it, a step that is expected to be preceded by nighttime meetings to discuss the tax. The ordinance must then go before the Lake County Board of Commissioners for approval.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.