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Commissioners  insist on CEDIT funds for basics

Updated: March 18, 2013 6:14AM



VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners will soon have access again to the county’s economic development income tax funds.

Really.

When the Porter County Council passed the 2013 budget on a split vote in October, the budget didn’t include CEDIT funding. The move has since frustrated commissioners, who have been unable to grant funding requests, including a recent one for a feasibility study of the Porter County Expo Center.

“We did not approve the CEDIT funds for 2013 in our budget session,” said Council President Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, who voted for the version of the county budget that passed. “We want a comprehensive plan written so we know the direction the county is heading.”

Rivas said he has been in talks with Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, to get the matter resolved, and the council could begin releasing some funds in the coming weeks.

While Evans was not available for comment on the matter, Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said the issue most likely would come up at the council’s next meeting, on Feb. 26.

“I think the council and the commissioners both have been making a great effort to get this resolved, and I expect it to be,” she said, adding big-ticket items like drainage and other projects rely on those funds.

A study of county finances by H.J. Umbaugh and Associates released in August said the county must shift its reliance on property taxes, which are declining because of tax caps, to CEDIT funds.

But that transition takes time, and Rivas said the council is trying to slow down spending and take a look at where the county’s finances are. He understands the commissioners’ concerns.

“We can’t just completely turn the faucet off on them,” he said.

The county has about $4.5 million in CEDIT funds already allocated to projects, a little more than $4.5 million in unencumbered CEDIT funds and expects another $4.5 million in CEDIT money to come in this year, Rivas said.

In any event, the funds are crucial to the county, said Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at large, who voted against the budget that passed in the fall. Among other measures, the budget that failed offered $2.5 million in unallocated CEDIT funds from the commissioners to help shore up the budget and lessen reliance on property taxes. The offer was good annually for up to four years.

“Whatever budget you subscribe to or whichever school of thought you subscribe to, it’s all academic, because we are going to need that CEDIT money to run county government,” Whitten said.



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