VALPARAISO | Porter County Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he believes the proposal to establish a tax increment finance district in the area of the new hospital is unfair to taxpayers and could lead to the need for a new local income tax.
The proposed TIF will capture revenue from the new hospital and nearby developments to be used in that area alone, thus denying the county and other local taxing units the relief they are depending on to make up for income lost to the property tax caps, he said.
The creation of the TIF also will take control of the revenue out of the hands of the County Council, which is charged with that responsibility as the local fiscal body, Whitten said.
"It's a money grab," he said.
Whitten sent a letter to his fellow council members late last week in hopes of rallying them in opposition to the TIF, which is being formed by the appointed Redevelopment Commission. The proposal will have to receive approval from that board and the county Plan Commission and Board of Commissioners before a public hearing is held and final consideration given by Board of Commissioners.
"Even though this does not come to us for a vote, sitting idly by watching this county get driven into yet another income tax should certainly not be an option," Whitten wrote to his fellow council members.
Redevelopment Commission member Dave Burrus, who has a more positive view of TIFs than Whitten, has asked whether taxpayers from across the county should be required to help finance improvements in this designated area along U.S. 6.
He has disagreed that the rest of the county will be denied benefits of growth in the TIF district, pointing out the potential for new jobs, higher salaries and increased spending throughout the area.
The members of the Redevelopment Commission made it clear last week it intends to compensate Duneland School Corp. for its losses by adopting a new provision that allows for up to 15 percent of the TIF funding to be passed along to school districts for educational and work training programs. The commission also is allowed to invest in school projects.
Redevelopment Commission member Jim Polarek, who also serves on the County Council, said Saturday there is no comparable relief available for public safety agencies serving the area such as the fire and sheriff's departments.
"They would have to come up to the Redevelopment Commission and pretty much beg for their money," he said.
A consultant for the Redevelopment Commission updated a report on the impact of the TIF at Polarek's request and is predicting the hospital alone would generate $26 million over the next 20 years and cost the Duneland School Corp.'s capital project fund an estimated $5 million.
Polarek believes the estimates could be be as much as twice these numbers, considering the report is based on an assessed value of $100 million for the hospital and he has heard estimates of closer to $200 million.