Council president opposes Lake County loan

2012-10-23T20:00:00Z 2012-10-24T13:46:07Z Council president opposes Lake County loanBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
October 23, 2012 8:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Porter County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, voiced his opposition Tuesday to a proposal for the county to loan up to $15.5 million to Lake County.

Whitten said he does not want Porter County to be part of the proposed deficit financing and voiced concern about Lake County's ability to pay back the money.

"I don't want to use Porter County money to encourage that kind of thing," he said.

While acknowledging the fate of the proposed loan rests in the hands of Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko, Whitten said he plans on inviting Bucko to a future meeting to discuss the issue.

The Lake County Council is expected to discuss the proposed loan early next month. The money is needed to meet anticipated spending on the Lake County Jail, roads and drainage, waterways and other services.

Lake County officials, who assured the public this week they can handle their existing debt of more than $100 million, said state-mandated limits on the amount of taxes they can collect from local property owners requires them to either borrow, cut essential services or impose a local income tax.

Bucko said last week he read about Lake County's dilemma and offered to lend the money from a $173 million reserve that Porter County amassed from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital.

Bucko, who already has loaned money to a few Lake County school districts and the city of Hammond, said the loans must comply with strict regulations set by the state that guarantee the recipient has the resources to pay back the money.

These government loans allow Porter County to earn more interest on its money than other investment options and offer other government entities lower interest rates than can be found with other lending sources.

In other business Tuesday, Whitten offered a conciliatory tone on the ongoing heated budget debate and said he hopes the county commissioners also can move forward with a cooperative discussion on how best to use local income tax revenue to fund big-ticket items such as the needs at the jail and long-term funding for E911.

"We got to fund these things," he said.

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