VALPARAISO | Porter County Attorney Betty Knight said Tuesday she does not believe a recent modification to state law clears the way for the County Council to break with tradition and spend local income tax revenue without the support of the county commissioners.
The preliminary legal opinion, which strengthens the commissioners' stand on the issue, was given in response to a comment reported in The Times on Sunday by Tammy White, county office supervisor with the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
White said interpretation of the law is up to the county attorney and not her agency, which is charged with auditing all government units in Indiana.
Both White and Knight said the recent change in state law that at least some council members are interpreting as giving them exclusive power to transfer the revenue, does not identify which local board has that authority.
White said the rest of the state law on this subject supports the county's current approach of the commissioners proposing a use for the income tax revenue and then the council voting it up or down.
Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who called for the preliminary legal opinion, said the current approach being challenged by some council members is the process used by other counties around the state.
Evans requested the council move forward under the current approach.
"I need to know how much money the council needs from (County Economic Development Income Tax)," he said.
Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, has said the issue boils down to a belief by himself and others that the council, as the county's fiscal body, should manage all tax dollars.
Evans has threatened to take the County Council to court if it attempts to spend the income tax revenue without his office first making a proposal.
Knight said it is the hope of the commissioners and council to resolve the issue outside of a courtroom.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved an emergency request of up to $225,000 to address various water infiltration problems at the Memorial Opera House.
Berglund Construction, of Chesterton, was chosen to tuckpoint brick; repair the roof, plaster and foundation; and replace three-quarters of the doors at the aging building in downtown Valparaiso, said Interim Business Director Michelle Smith.