Porter County Council seeks answers on tax abatement for hospital
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 26, 2013 11:36AM
VALPARAISO — When the tax abatement should start for Porter Regional Hospital is up for debate — and the Porter County Council wants some answers.
Vicki Urbanik, the county’s budget and finance specialist, told the council Tuesday that the hospital, which opened in late August, has not yet started its 10-year tax abatement, which the council granted in 2009.
County Assessor Jon Snyder is waiting on the hospital’s appraisal before the assessed valuation is calculated, she said.
The tax abatement rolls off by 10 percent each year so that, after 10 years, the hospital would be paying its full tax share.
The debate, council attorney Scott McClure said, focuses on when the abatement should start. Hospital officials said that because the hospital was not a functioning facility in March 2012, the abatement shouldn’t start then, and the council disagrees. The abatement for 2013-2014 is not in disagreement.
Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at-large, said he wants to know where the county stands on the matter.
“To me, it was before (the hospital opened),” he said after the meeting. “It’s a money thing.”
The reasoning behind the abatement was that the county would recover its investment because the hospital, at U.S. 6 and Indiana 49, would spur development in that area, Whitten said.
Two things go wrong when the abatement is delayed, he added; it’s a breach of the agreement between the county and the hospital, and a tax increment financing district could take away the increased tax dollars as they come off the abatement.
The county’s redevelopment commission was in the process of establishing a TIF district in Liberty Township around the hospital, but pulled back last week because of concerns about the hospital receiving a tax abatement and being in a TIF district.
“I want to know exactly where we’re at. Has the assessor made concessions? Because it’s a big dollar (amount),” Whitten said.
In other business, with the absence of Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District, the council tied on two matters involving the county’s information technologies and service department, tabling them until their next meeting.
Council members wanted more information on Civic Plus, the firm designing the county’s new website, and on what their contract entails. Their contract was for about $76,000, with $63,000 for website design and the rest for annual maintenance. The website was to launch July 15.
The council also tied on hiring another server administrator for the department to hire an increasing workload; that matter has already been tabled twice.