Portage commission will provide grant to schools

2014-01-25T22:30:00Z 2014-01-26T00:11:07Z Portage commission will provide grant to schoolsJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | After more than a year of negotiations, Portage's Redevelopment Commission has finally agreed to provide $100,000 to the Portage Township Schools.

"I am pleased because we haven't gotten anything before," Portage Township Schools Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said.

Frataccia has been petitioning the Redevelopment Commission to either provide funding to the schools or to carve the schools from the city's tax increment financing district.

Frataccia said the district has lost more than $1 million in recent years because it does not collect the full tax dollars from properties within the TIF district.

The commission approved the grant program as part of its 2014 budget.

"We thought it was a good starting point for us. We want to be a partner with the schools," said Mayor James Snyder, who chairs the panel. "The schools are the backbone of Portage and their success is our success."

The idea of redevelopment commissions carving out other entities or providing funding for schools isn't new.

The Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission has been doing it for 10 to 12 years, said John Shepherd, who is an adviser to the Valparaiso and Portage commissions.

This is the first time Portage schools have ever requested establishing a grant program, Shepherd said.

Valparaiso collects all the tax dollars it is entitled to within its TIF districts and negotiates with school districts how much money the commission will give back to the schools. Valparaiso has TIF districts in both the Valparaiso Community Schools and East Porter County Schools districts.

The money is divided between the two districts based on student population. In 2013, the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission gave Valparaiso schools $265,720 and East Porter received 99,280.

In 2014, Valparaiso will receive $450,000 and East Porter will receive $150,000.

The schools must use the funding outlined in guidelines set by state statute.

The newly former Porter County Redevelopment Commission is working on a similar program, said its attorney Gregg Sobkowski. Sobkowski is also the Portage city attorney.

The Porter County Redevelopment Commission, of which Frataccia is a member, is in the process of establishing its TIF area, Sobkowski said.

When it approved its declaratory resolution in December, the commission agreed not to collect more than 60 percent of the taxes it would be allowed to collect from the TIF district. That left 40 percent of the taxes collected to be distributed to overlapping entities including the East Porter County Schools, Sobkowski said.

In addition, it is the intention of the county's Redevelopment Commission to set up a grant program with the East Porter schools to give back not more than 15 percent of the taxes collected. Sobkowski said those guidelines haven't been set and since no TIF district has been established, it is likely a year or more down the road.

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