Porter County Council doesn’t want treasurer to buy Lake County bonds
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent November 28, 2012 10:38AM
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:41PM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution against Treasurer Mike Bucko buying $15.5 million in municipal bonds to help Lake County meet its budget.
But Bucko, who had left the meeting by the time the resolution came up, said Wednesday he doesn’t have anything to consider at this point, and he welcomes the opportunity to discuss the matter with council members.
Bucko has the authority to make the investment, with the $160 million in proceeds from the county hospital sale, without approval from the council or the Porter County Board of Commissioners. He has made similar investments, for the city of Hammond and several area school corporations.
“I have not seen or had a bond purchase opportunity offered to me in regards to Lake County. Nothing has been brought to my attention,” he said, stressing the money would not be a loan.
Lake County is requesting a five-year bond issue and must have a financial plan to repay the bonds, if a deal were to go forward.
Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd, said during the meeting she could understand if the bonds were to cover a tax anticipation warrant, but not for operating expenses.
“I would like to ask Treasurer Bucko to not lend $15 million to Lake County to cover operating costs,” she said.
Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, echoed Conover’s concerns.
“To me, it seems an odd problem when our friends to the west have a $15 million shortfall,” he said, adding Lake County could end up with a $30 million shortfall next year. “It seems to be compounding a problem that needs to be addressed head-on there.”
Bucko said he’s received about 20 phone calls since the matter first came up last month. Some were from elected officials who wanted more information, and other calls were from the public.
“Some said they didn’t want it done because it was Lake County — period. That’s what most of them were,” he said.
He has yet to be asked to appear before the council to take questions about the matter, and didn’t know it was going to come up during Tuesday’s meeting. Despite his ability to make such an investment decision as he chooses, Bucko is sensitive to the opinions of the council and the commissioners.
“I wouldn’t want to just blow off a recommendation or make it appear that way,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything that would appear disrespectful to the County Council or the commissioners.”