VALPARAISO | The City Council held five public hearings on different issues, most involving spending tax money, at Monday's meeting without garnering any public comments.
The only one not involving appropriating funds was for creating a fire protection territory, which will mean a slight tax increase for Valparaiso residents and a doubling of the tax rate for fire protection in the unincorporated areas of Center Township.
The hearing was the second of three required before the ordinance can be approved. The final hearing will be at the March 25 meeting, after which the council is expected to approve it to meet the April 1 deadline for creating the territory. The territory would take effect July 1, but the new tax rate wouldn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2014.
The territory will mean all residents of the township will pay the same 28 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation on their property. City residents now pay 27 cents, but those outside the city boundaries pay about 14 cents. The owner of a $100,000 home in the city would pay just $3.36 more in 2014, while the owner of a $135,000 or higher home won't see any increase because of the tax caps.
For township residents, a $100,000 home will see a $42 increase in 2014, while the owner of a $150,000 home will pay another $83.55 in 2014. The current levies for fire service in both the city and the township will cease to exist.
The city thought it had created the fire territory a year ago, but it was rejected by the state Department of Local Government Finance because the territory's tax rate was not properly advertised. The mistake was not discovered until the fall, well past the deadline for approving it, so the city and the township had to start over this year.
In its other actions, the council approved spending money: to allow the Police Department to maintain its equipment ($15,000) and upgrade its current firearms ($10,000); from the Major Moves account to pay for the improvements at Sturdy Road and Evans Avenue and for pathways ($50,392); and from the riverboat casino revenue to pay consultants for studies of the city's compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the update of the city's comprehensive plan ($6,600) and the first year of the new strategic plan for the city ($100,000).