VALPARAISO | The Porter County Council had a mixed reaction Tuesday night to a request from Portage city officials for $60,000 in local income tax revenue to help fund police officers in Portage Township Schools.
But council members did agree they would not put Portage Mayor James Snyder in the middle of the ongoing dispute with county commissioners over handling income tax revenue.
The council and commissioners further agreed to meet to try to hash out their differences.
Snyder said the city needs the one-time request of $60,000 to cover its half of the cost of the officers, which it spits with Portage Township Schools. The officers are stationed at the high school and two middle schools, he said.
Snyder said when he took office at the start of the year, the city had $500,000 to $600,000 in unpaid bills. There are now 20 fewer employees, in addition to other cuts, he said.
"We believe we've made the cuts necessary to be where we need to be next year," he said.
The council's initial response Tuesday was to direct Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, to fund the request out of the income tax revenue already approved for his office by the council.
When Evans resisted, the two sides debated the issue until it was decided not to put Snyder in the middle. Evans was asked to return with a formal request (on behalf of Snyder), though the council was one vote shy of supporting the measure.
Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large, said he opposed the request because he feared other school districts also would seek funding from the county and he did not believe the request fit the initial intent for the income tax, which is economic development.
Snyder said 20 percent of the students at Portage High School and the middle schools are from outside the city in unincorporated areas.
Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd, who was unsure about the request, said, "This is a Pandora's Box."
In other business Tuesday, all six council members present urged Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko not to lend up to $15.5 million to neighboring Lake County.
The group voiced concerned that because the money is needed by Lake County for operating costs, the loan would just compound the problem.