MERRILLVILLE | Town leaders hope state lawmakers can help Merrillville improve its financial situation.
Town councilmen met with state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, last week to discuss potential ideas that could increase funding for Merrillville.
Smith told the town to develop several proposals he could share with other state legislators.
Town Administrator Howard Fink said more flexibility with tax increment financing district spending is among the proposals Merrillville would submit.
He said funds from TIF districts can't be used to pay salaries. If laws were changed to allow that spending, Merrillville could use TIF money to hire more police officers, Fink said.
Town Council President Shawn Pettit said the Merrillville Police Department is short -staffed because of Merrillville's budget limitations.
Pettit said another measure the town could pursue is a one-time opportunity for municipalities to enact a tax of their choice.
He said a 1 percent food and beverage tax charged at restaurants could benefit the town.
Pettit said that type of tax wouldn't impact all residents.
Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey said there is "no wiggle room" in Merrillville's budget, and he thinks the town has made all the budget cuts it can.
"We're a no-frill town," Guernsey said.
He and other town officials said the levy freeze in Lake County has made it difficult for the town to improve services, which is why Merrillville is submitting proposals to Smith to increase funding.
Smith said Merrillville officials should present the town's financial situation to other state lawmakers, so they could better understand why Merrillville is pursuing the measures.
Fink said he and Guernsey will develop a 10-minute presentation, which they would provide early next year.
There are no guarantees any of Merrillville's proposals will advance, but town leaders appreciated the opportunity to discuss their ideas with Smith.
"If he gets us anything, it's better than what we've got," Guernsey said.