Lake officials get out the credit card

2012-11-21T15:30:00Z 2012-11-23T00:56:04Z Lake officials get out the credit cardBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
November 21, 2012 3:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County commissioners resisted as long as they could Wednesday before voting to borrow $15 million to balance county government's 2013 budget.

"We grudgingly approve," Commissioner Fran DuPey, D-Hammond, said as she brought down her gavel making the controversial loan package official.

DuPey and Commissioner Gerry Schueb, D-Crown Point, made a great show of their hesitancy to embark on deficit spending for daily operations of county government as opposed to one-time purchases.

Scheub initially wanted to delay a vote.

"We have until the end of the month. We still don't know how it will be spent. We need priorities for this money," he said.

Scheub said Lake County officials have been backed into this corner by state policies that include a law that has frozen property tax increases Lake County used to get — and other counties still enjoy — to keep up with inflation of the cost of government operations.

To end the freeze, state lawmakers ruled, Lake must pass a local option income tax on its residents and workers. But county officials have resisted imposing that tax for five years, saying inequities in its collection and distribution unfairly burden working men and women.

"The state is punishing us. They froze our levy. We have cut more than any county in the state of Indiana, but we are blamed for these bonds. This is such an insult to Lake County taxpayers," Scheub said.

Lake County Attorney John Dull said the county will now sell the bonds to acquire the money, although he said it is now questionable whether Lake will make a deal with Porter County.

Porter County Treasurer Michael Bucko offered last month to loan the county money from a $173 million reserve Porter County amassed from the sale of the Porter Memorial Hospital. However, Porter County Council President Dan Whitten complained he didn't want Porter County to encourage Lake's deficit financing.

Bucko was unavailable for comment Wednesday on whether his offer is still available.

Commissioners also voted Wednesday to refinance an earlier $5 million loan to pay for new plumbing in the county jail and an earlier $8 million loan to settle a lawsuit about overcrowding in the jail.

Scheub expressed initial reluctance in voting for the $8 million bond because he argued that suit was the fault of former Sheriff Roy Dominguez.

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