Valpo fire territory expected to pass at Monday council meeting
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent March 23, 2013 11:50PM
Updated: April 25, 2013 7:05AM
VALPARAISO — The Valparaiso Fire Protection Territory ordinance the City Council is expected to pass Monday is more about a change in taxes than a change in protection for the city and Center Township.
The new territory will have Valparaiso fire and ambulance services covering all of the city and all of the township, just as it has for more than 23 years.
However, under the ordinance, township residents will pay an equal amount in property taxes starting in 2014, and because of tax caps, some other governmental bodies will see a reduction in their tax draws.
“We’re trying to minimize the breaker,” said Karl J. Cender of Cender and Company LLC, the Merrillville financial company that handled the financial aspects.
Because of the state’s 2008 property tax caps, known as “circuit breakers,” any change in one government body’s tax rate affects everybody.
There’s a limited amount of tax dollars, so an increase in one will affect the tax draws of all.
“Everyone shares in a direct proportion to any increase,” Cender said.
The city provided possible numbers — almost a worse-case scenario — that could happen before Porter County applies the 2014 circuit breaker credit.
Under that, Porter County would see a loss of about $20,860, while Valparaiso Community Schools will see a $45,925 change and the county library branches will see a $3,946 change.
The total change for seven local taxing bodies will be $135,552, according to figures Cender put together, but he stresses that’s a high estimate.
“I think it’ll even be less than that,” Cender said.
There could be other troubles if the fire territory ordinance isn’t passed by the township Monday afternoon and the city Monday evening — and doesn’t get approval from the state’s Department of Local Government Financing.
Fire Chief David Nondorf said cuts to emergency workers staff would be needed as day staff is already minimal.
“We don’t have any more people to downsize but the people on the trucks,” Nondorf said.
Prior to the 2008 tax caps, the township’s property tax rates for fire protection were going up in the allowed increments, Nondorf said.
Oeding said the township also made up for costs with building a new fire station and buying a new fire truck
However, the tax caps stopped that ability, and Cender said this is a one-time chance to even out rates.
Under the territory, a $100,000 house in the city will pay an additional $3.36 in property taxes for 2014 and $2 in 2015.
Houses worth more than $135,000 wouldn’t incur an increase because of the tax caps.
In the township, a $100,000 house would see an initial property tax increase of $41.94 in 2014, while a $150,000 house would see an increase of $83.55.
In 2015, the increase will be $2 for $100,000 home and $4 for $150,000 homes.
The territory itself will become official July 1, if it’s approved by the DLGF.
The DLGF denied the territory last year after the city and township passed ordinances for it because specific property tax rates under the territory weren’t advertised.
City Administrator Bill Oeding described this as a technicality.
The rule to do this hadn’t taken effect yet, but the state had implemented it as a general policy