ST. JOHN | The Town Council narrowly approved a 50 percent reduction in the building permit fees that Lake Central School Corp. will pay for Lake Central High School’s $102 million construction project.
Construction at Lake Central High and the total rebuilding of Protsman Elementary in Dyer were approved by St. John Township residents in a 2011 referendum.
Taxpayers will see their property taxes increase $0.4838 per $100 of assessed value over the next 20 years starting in 2013.
The council’s 3-2 vote came after a request by Lake Central Superintendent Larry Veracco for that reduction and lengthy discussion of the multiyear project, including remonstrances by St. John residents against waiving any fees for the school district.
Veracco said the money the district saves would go into the high school to benefit students.
“For example, the vocational wing has equipment needs,” he told the council. “Every dollar will to go to make Lake Central High School the best it can be and enhance the quality of life in St. John.”
Council President Michael Forbes and Councilman Greg Volk voted against the fee reduction motion made by Vice President Mark Barenie and seconded by Councilman Larry Bustamante.
This was the second time Lake Central school administrators and School Board members appeared before the Town Council to request a waiver of building permit fees for high school construction.
On May 24, the council granted a 20 percent fee reduction after school district officials asked for a 100 percent waiver of the estimated fee of between $1 million and $1.35 million. That vote also was 3-2.
The Town Council rescinded the original 20 percent reduction Thursday before considering the new 50 percent waiver of fees.
This second request by the school corporation came on the heels of Dyer's Town Council approving a 60 percent or $92,456 reduction in the $154,093 building permit fees for Protsman Elementary construction.
Barenie said the district made mistakes in the cost estimates originally supplied to the town last spring.
“The permit fees were based on estimates by the school corporation’s engineering company of schools (the company) built in Decatur and Plainfield, Indiana. Those building permit fees were $200,000,” said Barenie.
Councilman Ken Gembala said the town can’t afford to “take a hit” because of frozen tax levies.
St. John resident Joe Hero urged the council to rescind the original 20 percent reduction and not grant any waiver of fees.
Steven Hastings, a St. John Plan Commission member, suggested holding another referendum to split the costs of the reduction between all the communities where students reside.
However, Town Attorney Dave Austgen said Lake Central High is within St. John’s corporate borders and state law doesn’t allow for cost sharing.
After the vote, Veracco said the district “appreciates that the town is giving us a 50 percent waiver of building permit fees.”