Porter County Council president calls hospital TIF a 'backdoor tax'

2012-06-27T18:00:00Z 2012-06-28T12:11:43Z Porter County Council president calls hospital TIF a 'backdoor tax'By Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | Porter County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said implementing a tax increment financing district at the site of the new hospital would amount to a "backdoor tax" for homeowners.

A TIF would capture new revenue to be used in that area alone, thus fueling interest in a new income tax to help local taxing units cope with budget shortfalls caused by the state tax caps, he said.

"I just think the homeowners in this county deserve a little better," Whitten said.

Whitten raised the concern Tuesday as he and the other council members prepare to make an appointment to the county's Redevelopment Commission, which was revamped recently by the county commissioners from it advisory role to a board capable of initiating TIF districts.

The council has two appointments to the board — one being its president — while the commissioners will name its president and two other members for a total of five. A School Board member from any of the county's districts will be appointed by commissioners as a sixth, nonvoting member.

Whitten said creating a TIF in the area of the new hospital would be unfair considering the county granted a 10-year, $12.4 million tax abatement to the hospital in 2009 with the idea that local taxing units would benefit as the taxes slowly came back on line during that period of time.

"We're talking about a lot of money," he said.

Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer said Wednesday he is opposed to a TIF in the hospital area because it would impact several of the school's budgets not taken over by the state.

If the school does not benefit from the increased assessed value in the area, it will collect less for capital projects, including technology and buildings, he said. It also could end up forcing taxpayers elsewhere in the school district to pay more for school debt.

Economic development adviser John Shepherd, who served as volunteer director of the former advisory commission, said a TIF along the corridor in question could leave out the hospital.

County Commission President John Evans, R-North, said the Redevelopment Commission only can recommend a TIF district, which then must receive the approval of the Plan Commission and commissioners before taking shape.

Whitten questioned the logic of using a TIF in the hospital area considering the tool often is used to help revitalize a blighted area. He said the area around the hospital is a "golden goose" that will have no problem attracting development.

"It is going to be bleeding money up there," he said.

Shepherd said all of the TIFs in place in Porter County are of the type to offset the cost of a growing area and not to encourage growth in a troubled spot.

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